New Algerian president faces tough challenge

Algerian demonstrators take to the streets in the capital Algiers to reject the presidential elections, in Algiers, Algeria, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP)
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Updated 13 December 2019

New Algerian president faces tough challenge

  • 40 percent of voters took part in the poll, enough to demonstrate the legitimacy of the exercise

ALGIERS: Algeria’s new president faces the country’s biggest political crisis in decades, a hostile economic climate and attacks on his legitimacy after winning an election with low turnout opposed by a massive protest movement.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 74, beat the other four candidates — all also former senior officials — to win the race outright with 58 percent of the vote, ensuring there will be no second round.

The authorities hope the election of a new leader will end months of turmoil following the toppling of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose 20-year-rule was brought to an end in April when the army pulled its support after mass demonstrations.

But protesters have dismissed the entire election as a ploy by Algeria’s shadowy, military-backed authorities to quell the months-long uprising and restore the old political order.

As housing minister, Tebboune was responsible for building the tallest mosque in the world, a project the government pushed as a national symbol, and for expanding the state’s generous program of low-cost homes with a million new apartments.

Officials say 40 percent of voters took part in the poll, enough to demonstrate the legitimacy of the exercise.

But protesters and their sympathizers who boycotted the election could dispute Tebboune’s mandate. And, as the protest movement has no clear leadership, it is not clear how Tebboune could negotiate a widely accepted path forward.

Aside from the months-long political crisis, he will also face Algeria’s most difficult economic situation in decades, with declining energy revenues and bitter cuts to state spending.

Energy exports, the source of 95 percent of state revenue, fell 12.5 percent this year. The government has burned through more than half its foreign reserves since energy prices began dropping in 2014, and has approved a 9 percent cut in public spending next year, while keeping politically sensitive subsidies untouched.

It has also approved new investment rules to allow foreign companies to own majority shares in “nonstrategic sectors,” and to make it easier for international oil firms to work with state energy giant Sonatrach.

Tebboune was viewed as a technocrat during his years as a Cabinet minister under Bouteflika. He served as premier in 2017 before being pushed out after less than three months when he fell out with influential business tycoons in the president’s coterie, many of whom are now in prison on corruption charges.

Separate from politics

Like the other candidates, Tebboune has tried to harness the protest movement as a source of support for reform while rejecting its overriding message that the entire ruling elite should go and that the military should quit politics.

He has used the circumstances of his brief premiership in 2017 to polish his credentials as a man of integrity who stood up to Bouteflika. He vowed during the campaign to “separate money from politics.”

However, his own son was also arrested in the purge that followed Bouteflika’s fall and is now also awaiting trial accused of graft. Tebboune supporters said his son’s plight proved his independence from the military-backed authorities.


Egyptian ministry of irrigation — torrent season begins

A general view of the High Dam in Aswan, Egypt February 19, 2020. (REUTERS
Updated 21 September 2020

Egyptian ministry of irrigation — torrent season begins

  • Preliminary indications of the flood showed that it is higher than average and that the incoming waters during August and September are so far higher than those of last year

CAIRO: Egypt’s flood season began in August and will continue for three months — and the torrent season is about to begin — Mohamed El-Sebaei, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, has confirmed.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation continues to prepare for the torrent season and to deal with flooding, which has caused the levels of the Nile to rise significantly over the past few days.

El-Sebaei said the ministry is monitoring the quantities of water that reach Egypt and accumulate in front of the High Dam on a daily basis, pointing out that the Minister of Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel-Ati, has been in Aswan since yesterday to inspect the water facilities of the High Dam.

He said that the torrential season is about to start in the period between autumn and winter, and that the ministry is following up with all torrent, canal and drain networks to ensure that they are ready to receive any volume of water and to preserve private and public property.

The ministry is preparing to cope with the torrents and rains expected to occur during autumn and winter by preparing Lake Nasser, located behind the High Dam, which is one of the most important strategic points in containing the quantities of water coming from the Ethiopian plateau.

The Egyptian River Revenue Regulatory Committee, in its meeting headed by Abdel-Ati, reviewed the situation of the Nile flood, the procedures for monitoring, analyzing and evaluating its condition, and the quantities of water expected to arrive until the end of the current water year 2021-2022.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Irrigation, the rates of rain in the sources of the Nile is expected to start decreasing by the end of September.

Preliminary indications of the flood showed that it is higher than average and that the incoming waters during August and September are so far higher than those of last year. Is still too early to make a final judgment on the type and size of this year’s flood.

Eman El-Sayed, head of the planning sector and head of the forecast center at the Ministry of Irrigation, said the center works to calculate the rates of rain that fall on the upper Nile River countries until it reaches the country on a daily basis. She explained that the latest technology is used to take satellite images and download mathematical models to determine the amount of rain falling and when it will fall.

El-Sayed added that the ministry holds two meetings every week to discuss the developments of the flood season, which have been confirmed more than once to be very high — once during the meeting of the River Revenue Regulatory Committee and the other during the Leadership Committee meeting.

She pointed to the development of three scenarios to deal with a flood. If it comes at a power 10 percent stronger than expected, it will be water drainage as usual. If it comes 50 percent stronger than expected, the excess will be dealt with through drains and waterways and the Toshka spillway will open. If it is stronger than that, the country will declare a state of emergency, she said.