Algerian President Reshuffles Government Without Major Cabinet Changes
A Government Reshuffle
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune carried out a partial reshuffle of his government on Sunday, February 21 — apparently without any major cabinet changes.
The Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerad — with whose cabinet Tebounne had previously expressed dissatisfaction, remains in his post as well as the holders of the regalian ministries, according to the list published by the presidency of the Republic. The Head of State also dissolved the National People's Assembly (NPA), the lower house of parliament — paving the way for early parliamentary elections within six months. Although no exact date has been set, the political class is counting on June.
In addition, the Minister of Justice, Belkacem Zeghmati — a symbol of the judicial repression against the opposition and Hirak militants, is still in position. As is also the Minister of Communication and spokesman of the government Ammar Belhimer who has the upper hand on the media.
On the other hand, the Minister of Energy, Abdelamadjid Attar, and his colleague from Industry, Ferhat Aït Ali — who is heavily criticised for his management of the file on the revival of the automobile industry, are out. As are also the Ministers of Water Resources, Tourism, Environment and Public Works.
Hirak 2-Year Anniversary
In a keynote address to the nation last Thursday evening, President Tebboune announced Thursday evening also announced his decision to grant pardon to about 60 jailed Hirak activists — as a gesture to appease the popular protest movement. Since then, almost 40 prisoners have been released — just in time for Mondays calls to protest in commemoration of the movement's second anniversary in the capital city Algiers.
The demonstration saw an intense police response — with roadblocks set up and helicopters heard flying over the city.
To avoid delays due to traffic jams, some Algerians went out at dawn to go to work. This is the case of Hamid, 54, a civil servant.
"I came from Hamadi (east of Algiers). I had to start at five in the morning. Two and a half hours of traffic jams to get to the centre because of the gendarmerie roadblocks and then the police. They check every car," explains Hamid, a 54-year-old civil servant.
Context and BAckground: Hirak
Launched on February 22 2019, the Hirak — a popular protest movement unheard of in Algeria, had pushed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for two decades, to resign two months later. This peaceful movement had to suspend its weekly demonstrations in March at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hirak continues to call for the dismantling of the "system" in place since Algeria's independence in 1962, which it sees as synonymous with authoritarianism and corruption.