Algeria to hold promised constitution referendum on November 1

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune meeting with the visiting French Foreign Minister (unseen) in the capital Algiers on January 21, 2020.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune meeting with the visiting French Foreign Minister (unseen) in the capital Algiers on January 21, 2020. © Ryad Kramd, AFP

Algeria will hold a promised referendum on a revised constitution on November 1, the office of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced on Monday evening. The new constitution is expected to boost democracy and give parliament a greater role, the presidency said on Monday, after months-long protests demanding reforms.

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After "consultations with the parties concerned, it was decided to set the date of 1 November 2020 for the holding of the referendum on the draft revision of the Constitution", the presidency said. The date also marks the anniversary of the start of Algeria's 1954-1962 war for independence from France.

President Tebboune has repeatedly pledged to introduce political and economic reforms since coming to power in a presidential election last December after an unprecedented lengthy protest movement, which had forced long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in April 2019. Even official figures put turnout in the poll at less than 40 percent.

More powers to PM and parliament

Tebboune, formerly a prime minister under Bouteflika, has since taking office sought a constitutional referendum, ostensibly as an answer to the popular protest movement. He has said a new constitution would reduce the authority of the president and "guarantee the separation and balance of powers".

The new constitution would give the prime minister and parliament more powers to govern the North African country of 45 million people, a draft released earlier this year showed. The government has said the draft, which kept presidential terms limited to two mandates, would be submitted to parliament for debate and approval before a referendum.

The referendum date was announced after Tebboune's meeting with the head of the election authority Mohamed Chorfi earlier on Monday, the presidency said in its statement.

Not enough, demonstrators say

Demonstrators however rejected his call for dialogue, insisting on demands for deeper reforms in the North African country.

The country's constitution has been amended several times since independence from France, and during the two-decade Bouteflika era it had been tailored for the deposed leader's requirements.

Mass protests broke out in February last year to reject Bouteflika's plan to seek a fifth term after 20 years in power, and demand the departure of the old guard as well as the prosecution of people involved in corruption.

Several senior officials, including two former prime ministers, several ministers and prominent businessmen, have been jailed since then over corruption charges.

The demonstrations only petered as the government banned gatherings last March as part of measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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