Algeria’s ruling party names relatively young new leader amid protests

Algerian students watch a banner being fixed on a building's facade on April 30, 2019 as they continue their weekly protests in the capital Algiers. (AFP)
Updated 01 May 2019

Algeria’s ruling party names relatively young new leader amid protests

  • Businessman Mohamed Djemai, 50, , is a relatively youthful figure atop the FLN, most of whose senior officials are in their 70s

ALGIERS: Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party has elected businessman Mohamed Djemai as its new leader, state television said on Tuesday, a month after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit in the face of mass protests.
Bouteflika’s exit has not quieted protesters, who are now demanding the dismantling of an entire ruling elite entrenched for decades, a shift toward more democracy and a crackdown on systemic corruption and cronyism.
The 50-year-old Djemai, whose business interests have included smartphones, is a relatively youthful figure atop the FLN, most of whose senior officials are in their 70s and have dominated Algeria since independence from France in 1962.
Djemai replaces Moad Bouchareb. The FLN, which has ruled since independence in 1962, will lead Algeria to a position of security, Djemai was cited as saying by the private Ennahar TV. Until presidential elections on July 4, Algeria — a major oil and gas producer — will be run by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, as caretaker president, although he has also faced demands to resign.
Many Algerians hardly took notice of the FLN leadership change as they pressed for bigger changes.
The army remains the most powerful institution in Algeria, having swayed politics from the shadows for decades. It has so far patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests that at times have swelled to hundreds of thousands of people.
Earlier on Tuesday, the army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah — who helped push out Bouteflika after having him declared unfit for office — said several big corruption cases would come to light in a crackdown on graft, Ennahar TV reported.
A number of figures from the ruling elite including the finance minister, former prime minister and several oligarchs have come under investigation in recent weeks.
“The judiciary has been freed from all pressures,” Salah said in a speech at a base in the eastern city of Constantine. “The country will be cleansed of corruption and corrupt people.”
Salah spoke hours after former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, who was sacked as part of a Cabinet reshuffle two days before Bouteflika resigned, appeared in court as part of a corruption investigation.
There was no immediate comment from Ouyahia or his lawyers. It is up to the court to decide whether there is enough evidence for him to face a formal charge. Ouyahia later left the court after being questioned by a prosecutor, state TV said.
“Put Ouyahia in prison,” read a banner held up as dozens of protesters gathered near the court in the capital, Algiers.
On Monday, Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal — a former central bank governor who only got the job from Bouteflika last month — appeared in court in relation to an investigation into suspected misuse of public funds, state TV reported.
At least five tycoons, some close to Bouteflika, have been detained and accused of involvement in corruption scandals.


Gulf countries announce measures to cut links with Iran as coronavirus cases rise in Middle East

Updated 13 min 34 sec ago

Gulf countries announce measures to cut links with Iran as coronavirus cases rise in Middle East

  • The UAE suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran
  • Kuwait has canceled celebrations for national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday

DUBAI: Gulf countries announced new measures on Tuesday to cut links with Iran to prevent coronavirus spreading after the confirmation of 20 new cases, all of them people returning from the Islamic republic.

The UAE suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran after Kuwait and Bahrain announced the additional cases of COVID-19.

Over the past two days, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman have reported 29 cases of the novel coronavirus among people returning from pilgrimages to Iran, which is battling the deadliest outbreak outside China and where the death toll has reached 16.

Bahrain also announced 15 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number affected in the kingdom to 23 — including six Saudi women — after some of the people had returned from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah in the UAE.

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority “suspended all passenger flights and cargo to and from Iran starting today and for one week,” a statement carried by the official WAM news agency said, adding that the ban could be extended.

Also on Tuesday, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed tweeted that the UAE was ready to provide all forms of support to help China combat the spread of the virus.

Shortly after, the Bahraini authorities said citizens were banned from traveling to Iran “until further notice.”

In neighboring Kuwait, three new cases were recorded among Kuwaiti men who had been under quarantine after returning from Iran.

Oman, which on Monday reported its first cases of coronavirus in two Omani women who had returned from Iran, reported an additional two cases.

Muscat was making arrangements to bring back its citizens from the Islamic republic, the foreign ministry said, a day after it suspended all flights to and from Iran.

Oman also announced that it will suspend the import and export of goods from Iran from Wednesday.

The three countries have large Shiite Muslim populations who frequently travel to Iran to visit holy shrines.

The UAE has already announced 13 coronavirus cases, all foreigners, including an Iranian couple who had traveled from Iran.

Kuwait has canceled celebrations for national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday and also scrapped all sports events to counter the spread of the disease.