The political turmoil that has engulfed since the head of the Intelligence and Security Department (DRS), General Mohamed Mediene, was dismissed in September, has no precedent in the recent history of the country, notes Francis Ghilès, a senior research fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (Cidob).
The bitter fight and unusually public brawling between powerful clans as the succession to an ever-weaker President Abdelaziz Bouteflika draws closer will probably be the graveyard of many political reputations in Algeria, he writes for Open Democracy:
The fact that it is occurring as the price of oil and gas, Algeria’s exports mainstays, have collapsed, sharpens what is a rather strange affair as the succession could turn a once revolutionary country into one where one family member succeeds another. Not something Houari Boumediene would have condoned, but times change.
Where economic policy is concerned, Prime Minister Abdellatif Sellal appears to have lost his script. He did not see the fall in prices coming, did not think through the economic and social consequences and seems to be letting his ministers cut budgets right, left and centre with the result that major investment projects are a mess. Confusion is all the greater as projects are being postponed without any publicity, so towns and regions wake up one morning and discover by rumour or stealth that an investment they were counting on has simply vanished.
“Sellal has certainly lost control of the government,” adds Ghilès:
His minister of industry openly defies him and recent parliamentary debate on the budget degenerated into fistfights and insults. The secretary-general of the former ruling – but still most important party – the National Liberation Front (FLN) resorted to abusive language towards anybody who dared oppose his views. Meanwhile, senior DRS officers were arrested in a sinister ballet that resembled a battle of shadows.