Algerian President Bouteflika approves constitutional reforms that limit presidential term

Wed 6 Jan 2016

Algerian President Bouteflika approves constitutional reforms that limit presidential term

On 5 January the Algerian government presented the draft constitutional reforms, after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika approved these a week earlier. President Bouteflika had promised the amendments to provide more democracy in the country, after he was re-elected President for a fourth term in 2014. Under the draft reforms, a President will only be able to hold office for two five-year terms and has to have a Parliamentary majority to appoint a Prime Ministers. Parliament is expected to approve the reforms in a session next month.

Fear of anarchy
In Algeria the government, unlike some of its neighboring countries, has managed  to prevent a revolution, through subsidies, increased wages and promises of reform. While presenting the draft reforms Ouyahia remarked that the government doesn’t “want Algeria to fall into anarchy, we have seen what has happened in other countries”.The draft constitutional reforms were presented to the press by Cabinet Director Ahmed Ouyahia, who said the reforms aren’t “a project that concern politics only, it also touches the lives of the citizens”. On top of the proposed political reforms, the draft also acknowledges Tamazight as an official language. Tamazight is the language of the indigenous Amazighs, and the lack of recognition of it has been a source of tensions for a long time.

Collective proposals

In June 2014 the Presidency  held consultation on the constitutional reforms with 52 political parties, a number of civil society organizations and associations, as well as professors and the head of the Upper House of Parliament. Earlier attempts to hold such consultations, fueled in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2011,were initially not followed up. In the following four years President Bouteflika had “insisted that the different phases of the consultations on the revision of the Constitution should be conducted in the form of national dialogue”, said Cabinet Director Ouyahia. He furthermore said that “About 70 percent of those amendments reflects collective proposals” from parties who took part in the consultations. 

Non-event
In a joint statement, however, a group of prominent opposition figures called the draft reforms a “non-event” and insisted that "any revision of the constitution that involves the country's future requires that the people be consulted through fair and honest elections". Cabinet Director Ouyahia responded by saying that their statement is “clearly the freedom of opinion and expression of the opposition, which is free to express its views”. North Africa analyst Riccardo Fabiani said the reforms show that Algeria is “a country very slowly moving in the right direction”. While political analyst Rachid Grim said that “despite these new measures, the system will not change by itself”.

Algeria has been ruled by President Bouteflika since 1999 under an authoritarian regime. During the last parliamentary elections the National Liberation Front, that named Bouteflika its honorary chairman, won the majority in parliament.