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Algeria’s Bouteflika names new government as protests persist

Ramzi Boudina, REUTERS | Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika gestures while talking with Army Chief of Staff General Ahmed Gaed Salah during a graduation ceremony at a military academy in Cherchell, Algeria on June 27, 2012.

Protest-hit Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Sunday named a new government headed by recently appointed Noureddine Bedoui, a statement from the presidency said.

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State television announced the new cabinet of 27 ministers, which included well-known politicians as well as newcomers to the Algerian political scene.

Veteran politician Ramtane Lamamra, who was appointed deputy prime minister and foreign minister on March 11, was not named in the new administration.

However Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has called for Bouteflika to step down, remained as army chief of staff and deputy defence minister.

Ailing Bouteflika, who has rarely being seen in public since a 2013 stroke, has come under mounting pressure to quit power since his decision to seek a fifth term sparked huge demonstrations.

Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui speaks during a news conference in Algiers on March 14, 2019.
Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui speaks during a news conference in Algiers on March 14, 2019. Zohra Bensemra, REUTERS

Bouteflika said earlier this month he would pull out of the race and postponed April elections, in moves that angered Algerians who see it as a ploy to extend his two decades in power.

Faced with persistent public anger, a succession of veteran Bouteflika loyalists have deserted the president in recent days.

On Tuesday, chief of staff Gaid Salah, who was appointed in 2004, called for him to step down or be declared medically unfit.

The chief of staff cited Article 102 of the constitution, under which a president can be removed if found unfit to rule.

Long a faithful Bouteflika supporter, Salah said on television it was "imperative" to find a way out of the crisis "which responds to the legitimate demands" of the people in line with the constitution.

Despite the calls, huge crowds thronged the streets of Algeria's capital on Friday for a sixth successive week, saying the moves by his key allies to abandon Bouteflika were not enough.

Algeria’s ‘wealthiest entrepreneur arrested’

Algerian authorities on Monday seized the passports of seven businessmen over corruption allegations, the private Ennahar TV reported Monday.

The seizures came hours after Ali Haddad, a leading Algerian businessman with close ties to Bouteflika, was arrested overnight Saturday into Sunday at a border post with neighbouring Tunisia, a security source told AFP.

FRANCE 24's Moncef AIT KACI reports from Algiers

Haddad, who Forbes magazine describes as one of Algeria's wealthiest entrepreneurs, has business interests in construction, hotels as well as media outlets.

“He was carrying a British passport and large sums of money when he was arrested, according to local media,” said FRANCE 24’s Moncef Ait Kaci. “The reason for the reported arrest is not clear. Last night the ETRHB group that he owns denounced the disappearance of the businessman.”

On Sunday, the Algerian authorities also banned all private aircraft from taking off and landing until the end of the month.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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