Bouteflika tightens grip on Algeria presidential elections

Bouteflika and his shadow

ALGIERS - Ailing Algerian President of Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Sunday named Mourad Medelci as President of the Constitutional Council, an official source said.
Bouteflika conducted the appointment in accordance with Article 164 of the Constitution, replacing Tayeb Belaiz who was appointed as Minister of Interior and Local Government, official Algerian APS news agency reported.
In Article 164, the Constitution states that "the President of the Republic shall appoint the President of the Constitutional Council for a single six-year term."
"The Constitutional Council is composed of nine (9) members: three (3) appointed by the President of the republic, including the council president, two (2) elected by the National People’s Assembly (Lower House), two (2) elected by the Council of Nation (senate), one (1) elected by the Supreme Court, and one (1) elected by the Council of State," according the same Article.
Previously, Medelci served as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
With Medelci’s appointment, Bouteflika tightens his grip on the organization and supervision of the 2014 presidential elections, after the appointment of Tayeb Belaiz as Interior Minister, and Tayeb Louh as Justice Minister in the recent cabinet reshuffle.
The Constitutional Council, and the ministries of interior and justice are practically, technically and legally the three bodies in charge of the supervision of the elections.
Bouteflika's massive reorganisation of the cabinet, in which he gave key posts to close allies, aims to ensure he has control over his succession next year, analysts and media say.
The reshuffle last week, the largest since 1990, saw nearly a third of ministers lose their jobs and came after Bouteflika had put a confidante as head of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) and trimmed the sails of the powerful DRS military intelligence agency.
It came a year after the last cabinet was formed, and was one of the first major actions by the 76-year-old president since he returned home in July following almost three months in France recovering from health problems.
Analyst, Nacer Djabi, said "Bouteflika has returned in force, despite his illness, imposing as head of the National Liberation Front a man close to his clan, changes in the DRS and the cabinet reshuffle."
Three weeks ago, the FLN, which has ruled since independence from France in 1962, chose Ammar Saidani as its new secretary general amid a crisis within the party.
The six FLN ministers who had opposed him were removed from the cabinet, and experts believe his appointment has allowed Bouteflika's supporters to tighten their control of the party in the run-up to next year's election.
Shortly before that, the press reported that the president had taken steps to reduce the influence of General Mohamed Mediene, who has headed the DRS since 1990.
In the reshuffle, Bouteflika gave the army commander, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, the additional job of deputy defence minister.
And he has placed under Salah's command three key units of the DRS -- the army's communications bureau, its central security agency and its judicial police force.
The judicial police have been active in conducting numerous corruption probes. These have included probes into state oil company Sonatrach and wanted former oil minister Chakib Khelil, a Bouteflika crony now living in exile.
Bouteflika, who has been in power for 14 years, retains the defence ministry, while the energy and finance portfolios held by Youcef Yousfi and Karim Djoudi remain unchanged.
Looking to next year, Bouteflika's fragile health has seriously weakened his chances of standing for a fourth term in office, although his supporters have not given up on the idea and he has so far remained mum.
Countering speculation about his ability to rule, the president has been pictured by state media, both in the Paris hospital where he convalesced and back in Algiers, receiving Prime Minister Abedlmalek Sellal and General Salah and discussing the daily affairs of government.