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Algeria: dismissal of security leaders in preparation for the presidential elections

September 18, 2018 at 5:00 am

Former Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika [National Algerian Centre/Facebook]

The Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has fired both Ground Forces Commander, Major General Ahsan Tafer and Air Force Commander Major General Abdelkader Lounas.

President Bouteflika’s decision on Monday follows a course launched last July that calls for the removal of the most important military and security leaders.

On Sunday, President Bouteflika appointed Major-General Abdelhamid Ghriss as Secretary-General of the Ministry of National Defence.

According to Algerian media, five retired generals were prevented from travelling abroad after the military prosecutor issued a decision in the Blida city court.

The prohibition decision concerns various fired military commanders. including: Major General Menad Nouba, former National Gendarmerie chief, former Director of Military Finance Services in the former Ministry of National Defence, Major General Boudjemaa Boudouaour, former Commander of the First Military Region, Major General Lahbib Chentouf, former Second Military Region Major General Saeed Bay, along with Major General Abdul Razzaq Sharif, former commander of the Fourth Military Region.

The Director-General of National Security, Colonel Mustapha Lahbiri, had replaced the security official at Houari Boumediene Airport. The dismissals included many other officials at the airport.

According to Algerian newspapers, the changes came after Major General Saeed Bay, former commander of the Second Military Region, left the national territory with his family through Houari Boumediene Airport heading for France, last Tuesday, despite a decision to ban him from leaving the national territory.

The founding member of the opposition Algerian “Rashad” movement, former diplomat, Mohamed Larbi Zitout said in an interview with Arabi 21 that the rapid military changes in Algeria for several months have been unprecedented.   “Nearly 80 per cent of the security and military leaders have been ousted, and four leaders of the six military regions in the country have been involved,” Zitout said.

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He added: “It is true that these changes are carried out by the army commander Lieutenant General Gaid Salah, but he is carrying out the directives of Said Bouteflika, brother of the President and his allies, in preparation for the nomination of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for the fifth term next spring.” According to Zitout, “the decision of the future presidential elections in Algeria is not only a local decision but also a French and American one.”

The former Algerian diplomat, who chose to stay in London for several years and joined the opposition, stressed that “the army commander, Lieutenant General Gaid Salah, who has so far supported President Bouteflika’s candidacy for a fifth term, may not continue in this position to the end.” He said: “There are several possible scenarios.

The first is that Gaid Salah will be removed at the end of these changes by Said Bouteflika. As for the second scenario, Gaid Salah will utterly control of the military apparatus, and then control the political power, that is to make a coup against Said Bouteflika’s movement in coordination with Paris and Washington.”

“A third scenario is that Gaid Salah will continue to work with Said Bouteflika’s movement,” he said.

However, Zitout pointed out that “the current deteriorating economic and social conditions in Algeria may not leave the opportunity for political conflict to end as desired by those who concoct it, that is, the country is witnessing a critical political and social situation open to all possibilities.”

The security expert dissident of the Algerian regime, Karim Moulay said in an interview with Arabi 21, that the military changes, which have been underway for several months, constitute a work coordinated between the military leadership and the presidency.

He said: “The security measures related to the dismissal of the majority of the military and security leaders, are made under the presidency’s recommendation as well as the approval of Paris, which is part of the creation of the climate of the upcoming presidential elections,” as he put it.

Earlier this year, Algerian politicians and intellectuals have asked Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika not to run for a fifth term in 2019.

In a letter published last May, 14 politicians, scholars and academics called on Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to “abandon the fifth pledge” and not to run for the elections scheduled for 2019, in return for calls from the two ruling parties for his stay in power.

The signatories to the letter include former prime minister and prominent opposition Ahmed Benbitour, and the head of the New Generation party, Sufian Gilali, who was at the forefront of those who rejected the fourth mandate, in addition to the political activist Amira Bouraoui, who has the slogan “Barakat” meaning enough, and others.

Bouteflika has rarely appeared since he suffered a stroke in 2013, which caused him to sit on a wheelchair and influenced his ability to speak, but that did not prevent him from running for a fourth term in 2014 and winning it without an electoral campaign.

The ruling National Liberation Front party has repeatedly appealed to the Algerian president to continue to rule and run for a fifth term, as did his ally in the RND National Rally for Democracy, but Bouteflika has not yet announced his intention.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (born March 2, 1937), who has been president of Algeria since 1999, is the tenth president of Algeria since the formation of the republic and the eighth president since independence.

Since he suffered a stroke in April 2013, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika uses a wheelchair, does not speak to the Algerian people and shows only on rare occasions to greet some guests.

The President’s health situation prompted some opposition parties to demand a vacancy announcement and to hold snap elections by Article 88 of the constitution because of “the president’s inability to perform his duties,” but that call was not met with reaction.

Algerians are preparing for the upcoming presidential elections in the first half of the next year to choose a president of the Algerian Republic for five years ending in 2024, where citizens will be updated on the electoral lists before the end of this year.

One of the main features of these elections is that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will be the last Algerian president with open presidential terms, which have been determined according to the Algerian constitution with two terms (10 years).