Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Under an ailing president, what next for Algeria?

After years in power, Abdelaziz Bouteflika has no clear successor, although an aging elite hopes to avoid upheaval

By Lamine Chikhi and Patrick Markey  /  Reuters, ALGIERS and TUNIS, Algeria

Algeria’s global security role remains key. After Bouteflika helped end the war, Algeria has evolved into a strong ally in Washington’s campaign against militants in the Maghreb.

Foreign oil companies, critical of Algeria’s contract terms, also will watch transition for better incentives, especially after an attack on the Amenas gas plant a year ago that killed 40 oil workers.

Bouteflika himself has said it was time over for the old-guard from the independence era, but any successor will likely represent stability rather than generational change, and be backed by the ruling party establishment.

Among those who could succeed him and be seen as guardians of that continuity is Sellal, who is accepted by both Boute-flika’s wing and military clans of the political elite, analysts say.

Bensalah may also be in the running, though if he takes over temporarily should Bouteflika be unable to govern, he will no longer be eligible for election.

Two other names are Hamrouche, a former Algerian prime minister who many see as an outsider and a reformer, and Benflis, who once ran against Bouteflika and who has strong backing within the ruling party.

Eurasia Group North Africa analyst Riccardo Fabiani said it may be too early to predict the outcome of the internal struggles within the rival factions of Algeria’s elite, but no major policy shift should be expected for now.

“We expect the presidential faction and the military intelligence to finally agree on a consensus candidate over the next few weeks,” he said.

“Regardless of who the next president is, his policy agenda is likely to focus on a gradual process of economic liberalization over the next few years,” Fabiani said.

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