Monday, 16 May 2011

Algeria: Constitutional and political change - going back to 1992

When President Abdelaziz Bouteflika appointed the 69 year-old speaker of the Senate, Abdelkader Bensalah to chair the committee that has been charged with drafting constitutional amendments, it was clear to almost everyone, including most members of the regime, that Bouteflika had no intention of initiating any serious political reform.

The mere announcement of Bensalah's name was enough to confirm to many, if not all, opposition politicians that there would be little point in having anything to do with the

constitutional committee, or commission as many people call it. Bensalah is seen as little more than a weak and ineffective government lackey. Indeed, criticism of his appointment has been so widespread that many opposition parties and groupings, notably the FFS , have said they will boycott the whole approach.

The almost universally negative response to Bouteflika's announcements of constitutional reform and Bensalah's appointment, even from members of the regime itself, has spurred Bouteflika into sending his adviser, the retired Maj Gen Mohammed Touati, to Bensalah's rescue.

If there has been any doubt as to what sort of political and constitutional reform Bouteflika has had in mind, then sending in Touati to fix things up has provided the answer. As one prominent opposition spokesman told us: “He is one of Algeria's worst generals; a very bad man.” One look at Touati's CV is likely to see most opposition politicians confirming their boycott of whatever process the Bensalah-Touati commission may have in mind.

Touati is a Kabyle , now aged 74, which at least puts him on the right side of 70 to fit into Algeria's ruling élite, and a retired maj gen. His nick-name is “el mokh” (the brain), an epithet he acquired for being the architect behind the 1992 military coup d'état.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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