Algeria’s parliament on Sunday approved a raft of draft constitutional amendments, which – among other things – will limit future presidents to two terms in office and officially recognise the language of the country’s sizable Berber minority.
The changes were approved with 499 MPs voting in favour, two opposed and 16 abstaining.
Passage of the amendments required the approval of 454 out of 606 lawmakers.
“This will usher in a new political and constitutional era for Algeria,” President Abdelaziz Bouteflika – whose ruling National Liberation Front proposed the raft of amendments – said in a message to parliament.
Sunday’s parliamentary session was boycotted by 89 members of the 606-seat assembly.
Most importantly, the new amendments will reintroduce a presidential term limit of two five-year terms in office.
They will also see Amazigh – the language of Algeria’s Berber minority – recognised as an official language, while retaining Arabic as the country’s first language.
Furthermore, the changes will require the president to henceforth nominate a prime minister from among the party with the largest parliamentary presence.
Article 176 of Algeria’s current constitution states that the president can introduce constitutional amendments without putting them to a public referendum – as long as he has the consent of three-quarters of parliament’s two chambers.
He can only do this, however, the charter adds, as long as Algeria’s constitutional court rules that the proposed changes “will not affect the general principles that govern Algerian society; human and citizens’ rights and freedoms; the country’s system of checks and balances; or constitutional institutions”.
Last month, the constitutional court gave Bouteflika the green light to put the proposed changes to a parliamentary vote rather than a public referendum.
Since coming to power in 1999, the 78-year-old Bouteflika has presided over two previous constitutional amendments.
The first was in 2001, whereby he made Amazigh a national – albeit informal – language, while a 2008 constitutional change abolished presidential term limits altogether, allowing Bouteflika to successfully run for a third term in office in 2009 and a fourth in 2014.