Algerian PM to resign, paving way for vote after protracted protests

Noureddine Bedoui’s departure is intended to ‘facilitate’ the holding of elections. The crisis has left major oil and gas-exporter Algeria in a constitutional deadlock. (Reuters)
Updated 11 September 2019

Algerian PM to resign, paving way for vote after protracted protests

  • Military urges electoral commission to call election by Sunday

ALGIERS: Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui will resign soon to pave the way for elections this year that the army sees as the only way to end a standoff over months of protests, two senior sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

Bedoui’s departure is a major demand of protesters, who in April forced president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit after 20 years in office, and who have rejected fresh elections until there is a more thorough change of the power structure.

Bedoui’s departure is intended to “facilitate” the holding of elections said the two senior officials, speaking on condition they were not further identified.

Powerful army chief Lieut. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Saleh said last week that the electoral commission should by Sept. 15 call an election, a move that would trigger a 90-day countdown to the vote.

Students holding a weekly protest on Tuesday chanted that they would accept no elections “until the gang is removed,” a reference to Bouteflika’s power circle, an elite entrenched largely since independence from France in 1962.

Sources close to prominent figures including former Prime Minister Mouloud Hamrouche and human rights lawyer Mustapha Bouchachi have said they are considering running for president if the election is called.

The mass demonstrations began in February and have continued since Bouteflika’s departure, with the loose-knit “Herak” movement demanding that all figures associated with him also leave and that the army play a smaller role in state affairs.

The election had been scheduled for July, but was postponed as a result of the crisis, leaving major oil and gas-exporter Algeria in a constitutional deadlock.

Over the summer the authorities have made concessions by arresting more prominent figures linked to Bouteflika on corruption charges, while increasing the pressure on protesters with a bigger police presence at demonstrations.

However, Herak has no formal leaders, making it hard to negotiate with. “We will not stop protests, this is our chance to uproot the corrupt system,” Khelifa Saad, 20, said at a protest on Tuesday in Algiers.

Two sources familiar with former PM Hamrouche said he was expected to run for president, though he has made no formal announcement yet.

Hamrouche, 76, headed the government from 1989-91, departing months before the military canceled a 1992 parliamentary election that an Islamic party was poised to win, plunging Algeria into a civil war that claimed 200,000 lives.

A candidate in the 1999 presidential election, he withdrew at the last minute after senior figures endorsed Bouteflika.

Hamrouche presents himself as a reformer, seeking better governance and economic diversification, and as a consensus choice, and would seek the support of the army, the formal opposition and protesters.

Two sources from inside Bouchachi’s circle said he would run if Bouteflika’s close allies were removed from power and an independent body set up to oversee the vote.

Bouchachi, a 65-year-old former member of Parliament, human rights activist and lawyer, has been prominent on social media after strongly backing protesters since February.

He was elected to Parliament in 2012 as a member of Algeria’s oldest opposition party Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS), but resigned within two years saying the government was not serious about reform.

“Bouchachi can secure the voices of tens of thousands of protesters,” said electronics student Ali Larbaoui, who has marched on most Fridays since the protests began.

Another former Prime Minister Ahmed Benbitour, 73, who resigned in 1999 after opposing Bouteflika’s economic policy, is also considering a presidential run, one of his supporters said.

The crisis has hit Algeria’s economy, with official data showing that one in four of the under-30s, who form 70 percent of the population, is unemployed.

Meanwhile foreign currency reserves, built up during periods of higher oil prices, are falling.


Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dies

Updated 1 min 22 sec ago

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dies

  • Hosni Mubarak stood down as President on Feb. 11, 2011 after 30 years in office
  • State TV said Mubarak died at a Cairo hospital where he had undergone an unspecified surgery

CAIRO: Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian leader who for nearly 30 years was the resolute face of stability in the Mideast before being forces by the military to resign after 18-day nationwide protests that were part of the Arab world’s 2011 pro-democracy upheaval, died on Tuesday. He was 91.
Throughout his rule, he was a stalwart US ally, a bulwark against Islamic militancy and guardian of Egypt’s peace with Israel. But to the tens of thousands of young Egyptians who rallied for 18 days of unprecedented street protests in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and elsewhere in 2011, Mubarak was a relic, a latter-day pharaoh.
They were inspired by the Tunisian revolt, and harnessed the power of social media to muster tumultuous throngs, unleashing popular anger over the graft and brutality that shadowed his rule. In the end, with millions massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and city centers around the country and even marching to the doorstep of Mubarak’s palace, the military that long nurtured him pushed him aside on Feb. 11, 2011. The generals took power, hoping to preserve what they could of the system he headed.
The state TV said Mubarak died at a Cairo hospital where he had undergone an unspecified surgery. The report said he had health complications but offered no other details.
Though Tunisia’s president fell before him, the ouster of Mubarak was the more stunning collapse in the face of the Arab Spring shaking regimes across the Arab world.
He became the only leader so far ousted in the protest wave to be imprisoned. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday February 11, 2011, his deputy Omar Suleiman announced in a televised address. He was convicted along with his former security chief on June 2012 and sentenced to life in prison for failing to prevent the killing of some 900 protesters during the 18-day who rose up against his autocratic regime in 2011. Both appealed the verdict and a higher court later cleared them in 2014.
The acquittal stunned many Egyptians, thousands of whom poured into central Cairo to show their anger against the court.
The following year, Mubarak and his two sons — wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent Gamal — sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges during a retrial. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while Mubarak walked free in 2017.
Since his arrest in April 2011, Mubarak spent the nearly six years in jail in hospitals. Following his release, he was taken to an apartment in Cairo’s Heliopolis district.
For the man who was long untouchable — even a word of criticism against him in the media was forbidden for much of his rule — prison was a shock. When he was flown from the court to Torah Prison in Cairo in 2011, he cried in protest and refused to get out of the helicopter.

GALLERY: Leaders Hosni Mubarak met during his 30 years in office