First Published: 2006-05-25

 
Algeria’s new PM to revise constitution, hike pay
 

Ouyahia resigns after his intransigence in face of repeated strikes by teachers, vets, doctors, workers.

 

Middle East Online

Back to government

ALGIERS - Algeria's new Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem has promised constitutional reform and an increase in public workers' salaries after he was appointed on Wednesday night.

Belkhadem was quoted in press reports on Thursday saying a "revision" of the constitution and a long call for increase in pay for public sector workers would be his priorities.

The presidential office announced last night that Belkhadem, 61, a confidant of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, would replace Ahmed Ouyahia as prime minister.

Daily newspaper Le Jeune Independant said Thursday that Ouyahia, who resigned on Wednesday night, had been scuppered by his own opposition to an increase in public salaries.

His resignation came after thousands of workers in the industrial area of Rouiba, 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Algiers, demonstrated on Wednesday to demand a pay rise and Ouyahia's departure.

The former president had become highly unpopular since he came out against the general salary increase proposed by the unions and supported by the FNL, led by Belkhadem, in January.

Ouyahia's unpopularity was exacerbated by his intransigence in the face of repeated strikes by teachers, vets, doctors, and by workers who claimed their jobs were threatened by the privatisation of public sector organisations, which the former prime minister was determined to push through.

Ouyahia is secretary general of the National Democratic Rally (RND), one of the parties in the governing coalition, which also includes the dominant National Liberation Front (FNL) and the Islamist Movement of a Peaceful Society (MSP).

However, several newspapers said Belkhadem would face problems if he did not keep his promise.

"The nomination of Abdelaziz Belkhadem, who has little experience of economic affairs, could lead to disenchantment," the El Watan newspaper predicted.

Belkhadem, foreign minister from August 2000 to May 2005, had also opposed Ouyahia's plan to make a declaration of general policy to parliament, as laid down by the constitution.

Ouyahia and Belkhadem also clashed over plans to revise the constitution, increasing the number of presidential terms from the present two to three, with Ouyahia against the scheme.

After resigning, Ouyahia told reporters that he had thanked Bouteflika for the "confidence shown and the total support given during these three years".

He had previously been prime minister from December 1995 to December 1998 under the presidency of Liamine Zeroual.

In 1992, shortly after the FLN had agreed to allow the first multi-party elections since independence from France in 1962, Algeria plunged into a disastrous civil war. It was sparked by the military-backed government's decision to cancel elections that an Islamic party, the FIS, had been poised to win.

The decision sparked almost a decade of appalling bloodletting, during which Islamic extremists carried out attacks on both the military and civilians, amid allegations of major human rights abuses on both sides.

An estimated 150,000 people died and even today violence continues, although at a much lower level.

After being elected president in 1999, Bouteflika was widely praised for helping to bring the conflict to an almost complete end.

He notably organised a referendum in September of that year to bring in a "civil reconciliation" plan, under which guerrillas who had not carried out atrocities could benefit from an amnesty.

Under his presidency, Algeria also began a return to the world stage, notably via pan-African diplomacy.

 

Saudi warns of 'disastrous consequences' over US 9/11 law

3,800 Syrian civilians killed by Russian strikes in one year

World leaders attend Shimon Peres’ funeral

UN warns 100,000 people trapped in South Sudan town

Bulgaria approves full-face Islamic veil ban

Jordanians rally against gas deal with Israel

Israel pays Turkey $20 million compensation for Gaza flotilla raid

Egypt MP suggests university virginity tests

Morocco to speed repatriation of citizens in Germany illegally

Turkey opposition leader condemns Erdogan’s ‘coup against democracy’

French jets set off to join action as battle for Mosul looms

Moroccan left hopes to offer 'third way' at polls

Renault signs Iran auto venture

Saudi border guard killed, 3 civilians hurt by shelling from Yemen

Turkey issues warrants for judicial, prison staff

MSF warns Syria, Russia to stop ‘bloodbath’ in Aleppo

Russia waiting to see OPEC freeze deal details

Police raid Casablanca market after rumours of sex dolls

UN warns 700,000 will need aid once Mosul offensive starts

Saudi seeks oil leadership in economic pinch

Egypt court suspends block on island transfer to Saudi

Bid for international Yemen war probe fails at UN

UN warns 'hundreds' in Aleppo need medical evacuation

Palestinian president to attend Peres funeral

King Abdullah visits home of murdered writer

Amnesty accuses Sudan of using chemical arms against Darfur civilians

Bahrain says 9/11 bill will harm US

9/11 bill puts US, Saudi cooperation in question

UN envoy says Syria talks 'very difficult with bombs falling'

Erdogan says Moody's was 'bought' after downgrade

Erdogan: Turkey may need state of emergency for more than a year

Iraqi activist wins Norway rights prize

Kidnapped German woman, baby freed in Syria

Turkey stops Kurdish TV broadcasts

A year of bombing in Syria triggers limited interest in Russia

Obama defends refusal to use military force to end Syria civil war

US Congress overrides Obama's veto of Saudi 9/11 bill

OPEC agrees deal to cut oil output

Palestinians react to death of Peres

Poverty takes toll in rebel-held Yemen fishing village

Kerry threatens to end negotiations with Russia on Syria

Kuwaiti court scraps petrol price hike

Iraq requests more US troops to take on IS in Mosul

Airstrikes hit hospitals in rebel-held Aleppo

Iran nuclear chief says not worried about Trump