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mercoledì 30 dicembre 2015

"The New York Times" asks: Who runs Algeria?

--wq.jpgA power struggle in the inner circle who ruled Algeria for decades turned into a revelation in recent weeks with accusations of a coup velvet while the questions intensify about the health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The almost daily revelations have both intrigued than worried as Algerians and raise fears that go far beyond the North African country, whose oil reserves and relative stability have made a fundamental bulwark against jihadist movements intrusive in the region.
The health of Mr. Bouteflika, 78, is so uncertain, after two attacks in recent years that a group of his closest collaborators leading publicly demanded to see to make sure that always takes decisions. The president remains so isolated that none of them met for over a year.
Shorten a meeting, which has not been realized, suspicions have risen that a clique in the ruling clique, led by the president's brother, said Bouteflika, has actually made an internal coup and ruled the country in the name of President.
"We feel that the president has been kidnapped by his immediate entourage," said Lakhdar Bouregaa, one of those who requested the hearing, in an interview with El Watan, one of the few independent newspapers countries.
"What motivated us was the extreme emptiness we feel the Presidency of the Republic," added Mr. Bouregaa, formerly known fighter of the war of independence against France.
Meanwhile, even if the President or those who work behind him to make decisions, a surprising number of early apparently took place in view of a transition: a purge of the secret services, imprisonment of Superiors General and a number of army of laws guaranteeing new penalties for journalists and others who disturb "the morale of the nation".
"Today there is a fierce struggle for the succession," said Omar Belhouchet, publisher of El Watan, which published many revelations of the presidential inner circle. "No one can tell when something will happen."
One of the most striking developments has been the public discussion of the apparent presidential decisions by the Group of 19, as well-known personalities who have requested a meeting with the president.
Among them are national heroes like Mr. Bouregaa, Zohra Drif, a fighter of the same war of independence; and Louisa Hanoune, a political fire that was imprisoned during the years of dictatorship, when political parties were banned.
Hanoune, now leader of the Workers Party, said that he doubted that the president had also seen their letter requesting a hearing.
"I am convinced that if he had read, he would call some of the group," he said in a separate interview with El Watan. "When you're down by illness and you can not move, you become dependent on others."
Hanoune has directly accused a clique of oligarchs and ministers to manipulate the president to pass decisions that benefit their business interests.
You and Mr. Bouregaa questioned several recent decisions by the government that they say are out of character of the president, in particular the detention of two top generals.
They are not alone. Ali Benflis, a former prime minister, who was second in the race for the presidency last year, said the poor health of the president had left a "power vacuum" that allowed a clan to take control.
 "The forces of extra-constitutional powers seized, outside the Constitution, is responsible for the presidency," he said.
He described those responsible for shady deals as people gravitated to the president.
"These are the forces that have seized power and manage the business instead of the president," he said. "If there was no power vacuum, you do not have that."
Opposition parties warn of wider repercussions. "I am worried for the whole country, to global stability," said Abderazak Makri, the leader of the Movement of Society for Peace, the largest Islamist party office in the country.
"In addition to political problems," he added, "there are economic problems, too," largely driven by a sharp drop in oil prices, which reached its lowest level in 11 years this week.
Algeria has long been driven by a political group and military mat - often referred to as "power" - in which decisions are taken behind the scenes by a system of consensus. This consensus is collapsing, say political commentators.
Mr. Mediène, better known as Toufik, led the secret services, the DRS for 25 years. A dark figure and influential than ever appeared in the media or discussed in public, he led the "dirty war" against the brutal Islamist insurgency in 1990, manipulated elections and dominated by political records kept against almost everyone.
Opposition parties say that Mr. Mediène organized presidential elections in April 2014 providing a fourth term for Bouteflika suffering. Despite having spent months in hospital after a stroke in 2013 and never any public appearance or utter a single campaign speech, Bouteflika won 81 percent of the vote.
However, after the re-election of Bouteflika, Mr. Mediène fell out of favor. The President or the group around him, he appeared in a game to consolidate power without him.
The oligarchs have tied up with the brother of the president and has grown in importance, while classics like those of the group of 19 were rejected.
Three generals were imprisoned and dozens of officers laid off from the summer. In August, General Abdelkader Ait Ouarabi, better known as General Hassan, the head of intelligence against terrorism, was arrested.
In November he was sentenced to five years in prison for destruction of documents and violation of the rules. Lawyers of General Hassan complained that we did not allow him to have a fair trial and, in particular, that it was not able to call his superior, Mr. Mediène as a witness.
Mr. Mediène was finally reached indeed public, the first time in his career, declaring in an open letter that General Hassan was under him and should be released immediately.
"All of a sudden became clear," he wrote the commentator Nourredine Boukrouh in the newspaper Le Soir of Algeria. The high-level corruption and the fourth presidential term had divided high military and political leadership, wrote and circulated in the media information in a way never seen before.
Through it all, President Bouteflika has remained silent, communicating with occasional letters to the government, leaving even those closest to him wonder who is really in control.

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