Tuesday 20 February 2018

Algerian President announces reforms as calls to step down increase

Algerian President announces reforms as calls to step down increase
(Middle East Monitor 09/07/17)
Algerian President announces reforms as calls to step down increase

A draft organic law amending the organisation and functioning of Algeria’s Council of State was adopted yesterday by the Council of Ministers in a meeting with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The new law will complement the new provisions of the Constitution, which was last amended in 2016.

New images of Bouteflika, 80, were broadcast earlier this week. This was the first time that he was seen by the public since the previous Council of Ministers meeting in June. There have been concerns about his ability to fulfil his presidential role and increasing numbers of calls to apply Article 102, which sets out how the incapacity of the President of the Republic can be established due “to serious and lasting illness”.

When the Head of State in Algeria is unable to perform his duties, “the Constitutional Council meets as of right, and after verifying the reality of this impediment by any appropriate means, proposes, unanimously, to the Parliament to declare the state of impediment.”

The legislative revision that took place this week at the Council meeting is accompanied by the new provisions of the Constitution, in particular Article 142. “This now gives the Council of State competence to issue an opinion on the draft ordinances that the President of the Republic would take during the parliamentary vacancy,” explained a statement released after the meeting.

Article 142 stipulates further that in the event of a vacancy in the National People’s Congress or during parliamentary holidays, the President of the Republic may, on urgent matters, legislate by ordinance after obtaining the opinion of the Council of State.

Considered to be the regulating organ of the administrative courts, the Council of State was created by virtue of the 1996 constitutional revision. In addition to its judicial function, it is invested with an advisory mission and has multiple powers, including to rule on appeals against decisions handed down initially by the administrative courts.

At the meeting with the Council of Ministers, Bouteflika invited the government to a “communication effort” to “explain the true meaning” of the reforms envisaged to have “the effect of adhering to society”. The President added in a statement that, “The social partners and the government have a duty to show solidarity and co-ordination, in order to guarantee the progress of the reforms in social peace.”

At the end of the Council of Ministers meeting, the official press agency announced the adoption of the government’s action plan and several laws and decrees.

Tensions rise as calls for Article 102 increase
Said Bouhadja, president of the National People’s Council, and Abdelkader Bensalah, president of the Senate, both condemned those calling for the application of Article 102 of the Constitution. Bouhadja maintained that the President “was acclaimed by the Algerian people after a transparent and democratic vote.” He insisted that elections are the only way to obtain legitimacy. “The development of the democratic edifice and its anchoring cannot be done without respect for the constitutional institutions,” he added.

The country has been plagued by very low voter turnouts in previous elections; fewer than 35 per cent actually voted in the election in May. Mistrust in the process has enabled the ruling National Liberation Front to govern Algeria since independence, and has discouraged many Algerians from viewing the ballot box as a means for change in their country.

Warning against the risks of an “adventure in the unknown”, Bouhadja criticised the voices calling for the President to step down as bearing “false judgments that go beyond political ethics” and trying by “desperation to sow doubt on the institutions, knowingly ignoring constitutional logic.”

Bensalah, meanwhile, reassured the public about the health of the President. “The President is doing well, he exercises his constitutional prerogatives normally,” he insisted. Bouteflika’s legitimacy stems from the 2014 presidential elections in which he won a majority and which were declared to be slightly more transparent than in 2007.

At least five activists in favour of the application of Article 102 were arrested yesterday in the centre of the capital Algiers after holding a sit-in wearing t-shirts that said simply, “Article 102”. They were released after six hours. Nouredine Oukrif, a member of the Political Bureau of Jil Jadid, and Amira Bouraoui were among those arrested, according to Tout Sur l’Algerie.

The application of Article 102 is unlikely to happen, as it would need the unanimous support of the Constitutional Council which currently holds three members appointed by Bouteflika himself. They are unlikely to implement any procedure against him.

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