Algeria adopted a new government on Wednesday, July 7, which sees half of the outgoing ministers re-elected, after legislative elections marked by record abstention and the repression of the Hirak protest movement. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune unveiled the composition of the government team, with no change in sovereign portfolios with the exception of foreign affairs and justice, according to an official statement.
The only big surprise: in foreign affairs, Sabri Boukadoum is replaced by the former diplomat Ramtane Lamamra, already in charge of foreign policy under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ousted from power by the street in April 2019. Mr. Lamamra, a veteran of the chancelleries and multilateral diplomacy, especially in Africa, had been approached in April 2020 to be the United Nations special envoy to Libya, but his name was ultimately not retained due to opposition from certain Arab countries.
Another minister served in a government appointed by Mr. Bouteflika: the holder of national education, Abdelhakim Belabed. The first president of the Supreme Court, Abderrachid Tebbi, becomes Keeper of the Seals in place of the unpopular Belkacem Zeghmati, associated with the repression of the opposition and the fight against corruption. As regards the media, under close surveillance, Ammar Belhimer retains the chair of Minister of Communication, but he is no longer government spokesperson.
“We are entitled to an Algeria of opportunity”
The new team is made up of 34 members, including only four women, the same number as before. Seventeen ministers were returned, including those of the interior, Kamel Beldjoud, of health, Abderrahmane Benbouzid, of trade, Kamel Rezig, and of energy, Mohamed Arkab. “Instead of a new Algeria, we have the right to a second-hand Algeria”, reacted warmly Sofiane, senior executive in a multinational, in reference to the slogan of Mr. Tebboune.
On June 30, the head of state appointed Aïmène Benabderahmane, a technocrat, finance minister in the previous team, as prime minister. Mr. Benabderahmane will keep his functions of chief treasurer. His priority task will be to redress the socio-economic situation at a time when the country is going through a serious crisis. The government’s list – made up largely of technocrats rather than politicians – does not seem to bode well for a major political change. 1is In March, during a minor cabinet reshuffle, President Tebboune had nevertheless promised that a profound change of government would take place after the legislative elections.
But the June 12 poll was won by the National Liberation Front (FLN, in power), independents rallied to the head of state and small parties close to power. The vote was marked by a record abstention (77%), in a country plunged into a political impasse since the start of the popular Hirak uprising in 2019, and against a background of widespread repression. These elections were rejected by part of the opposition and the Hirak, which calls for a radical change in the “System” policy in place since independence (1962). The new national assembly is due to take office on Thursday.
A “suicidal” roadmap
The government is now determined to continue its political and institutional normalization after the Hirak earthquake, today weakened by repression and divisions, but ignoring the demands of the street: rule of law, democratic transition, popular sovereignty, independent justice.
At a press conference on Wednesday in Algiers, representatives of political parties and civil society denounced “The worrying situation of fundamental rights and freedoms”. They claimed “The liberation of the prisoners of conscience, the end of the repression and the withdrawal of the suicidal” road map “from power”.
More than 300 people are currently in prison in connection with Hirak and / or individual freedoms, according to the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD), a support association. President Tebboune on Sunday ordered the release of young prisoners held for taking part in Hirak protests. But “Only 15 of the 18 detainees who were to be released on Sunday were”, deplored the vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), Saïd Salhi.