News / Middle East

Algeria's Bouteflika Seeks to Curb Security Service Power

FILE - Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
FILE - Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Reuters
Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika wants to push through constitutional reforms before 2014 elections to put an end to the powerful intelligence service's role as political kingmaker, the ruling FLN party's chairman said.
 
Any challenge to the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS) would amount to a major shakeup in Algeria where observers say the security agency has ruled behind the scenes with members of an FLN elite since independence from France in 1962.
 
Bouteflika's campaign, which will be seen as part of power play between his FLN faction and DRS chief Mohamed Mediene, may decide whether Bouteflika runs for a fourth term or, as many expect, steps aside.
 
Changes at the top of Algerian politics are closely watched - the country is Europe's top energy supplier and a lynchpin U.S. partner in combating Islamist militants in the Maghreb.
 
Amar Saidani, chairman of the National Liberation Front party or FLN, told Reuters Bouteflika was determined to create a “civil society” and limit the DRS' political influence.
 
“The DRS will continue to play its role, but it will no longer get involved in politics, including in the political parties, media and justice,” Saidani said at FLN headquarters in Algiers' Hydra district.
 
Constitutional reforms would set clear definitions on the roles of the security agency and the army, he added.
 
“The era of kingmakers is over because Bouteflika's goal is to build a civil state,” he added.
 
"The power"
 
The government denies Algeria is run though backroom deals among a party-military elite known by the French term “Le Pouvoir” or the power, pointing to the country's democratically elected president and parliament.
 
Five months ago, a stroke put Bouteflika in a Paris clinic. But since his return in July, the veteran of the independence fight has steadily moved to outflank his rivals, analysts say, appointing loyalists to key posts in a recent cabinet reshuffle.
 
He has already weakened DRS influence by transferring some of the security agency's powers to the army where one of his loyalists is now chief of staff, analysts have added.
 
Under the constitution, Bouteflika can run again. But since the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolts across the region, Algeria has come under pressure to deliver promised constitutional reforms to show it is strengthening democracy, observers say.
 
In April 2012, Bouteflika said publicly his generation's time was over, referring to the veteran independence-era leaders who ran the country for five decades.
 
At the top of the list of expected reforms is a proposed term limit for the president and vice president posts, which if passed, would leave Bouteflika out of the line up.
 
“He is our candidate, and there is no other candidate for the presidential vote, but Bouteflika,” Saidani said. But when asked what would happen if Bouteflika refused to run, he said: “It is still too early to speak about this now.”
 
Saidani said international observers would be invited to monitor the April presidential vote, only the second time this has happened since independence.
 
Six months before the ballot, Algerians still do not know who their candidates are, even though more than 100 political parties are now active. Most candidates stand little chance of winning in a system still dominated by the FLN.
 
“The reforms as well as the upcoming election will shut the mouth of those who denigrate us from abroad,” Saidani said. “They will no longer say that Algeria is ruled by generals.”

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs