Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat—Algerian president Abdulaziz Bouteflika carried out a major cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, with the most prominent changes taking place in the interior, foreign and defense ministries.
The cabinet shake-up saw 11 new ministers entering government, including 4 regional governors, while 8 ministers changed their portfolios. The cabinet reshuffle has been viewed by analysts as an attempt by Bouteflika to strengthen his grip on Algeria’s government.
Abdelmalek Sellal kept his position as prime minister. Tayeb Belaiz, who heads the constitutional council, was appointed interior minister, replacing Daho Ould Kablia, who was appointed a state minister without portfolio.
Senior diplomat Ramtane Lamamra was appointed Algeria’s new foreign minister, replacing Mourad Medelci. Medelci had been criticized for his handling of a number of important foreign policy issues, including the Syrian crisis and the Arab Spring.
Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, widely seen as a confidant of Bouteflika, was named deputy defense minister while retaining his post as army chief of staff. Under Algeria’s constitution, the post of defense minister is held by the president.
Labor minister Tayeb Louh was transferred to the Ministry of Justice, replacing former minister Mohammad Sharafi. Mohamed Bemeradi, the former tourism minister, was appointed Minister of Labor.
The head of the Algerian Popular Movement, Amara Benyounes, was dismissed as Minister of Environment and appointed as Minister of Industrial Development, succeeding National Rally for Democracy (RND) leader Cherif Rahmani.
The cabinet reshuffle saw Algerian president Abdulaziz Bouteflika push out five ministers affiliated to his own ruling National Liberation Front (NLF) party, namely transport minister Amar Tou, higher education minister Rachid Harraoubia, agriculture minister Rachid Benaissa, health minister Abdelaziz Ziari, and post and telecommunications minister Moussa Benhamadi.
The five ministers had reportedly voted against the change in leadership of the NLF two weeks ago, which saw Ammar Saidani elected as secretary-general, replacing Abdelaziz Belkhadem.
Wednesday’s reshuffle came just a year after the last cabinet was formed and is one of the first major political moves by Algeria’s ailing 76-year-old president since his return to the country in July following an absence of almost three months due to health problems.
Speaking to AFP, political analyst Rachid Tlemcani said that the cabinet appointments strengthened Bouteflika’s hand.
“He has increased his powers by appointing people close to him, such as the new Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz, in anticipation of the presidential election,” Tlemcani said.