in ,

Unconvincing cabinet reshuffle reminds Algeria’s Hirak supporters of blocked horizons of change | Saber Blidi

ALGIERS–The ministerial reshuffle announced by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Sunday, failed to win over the protesters and reassure them of the possibility of change.

On the contrary, the tepid line-up change came to remind the popular protest movement of the blocked horizons of the political situation and the authorities’ inability to provide any new solutions to the country.

The authorities could not satisfy the protesters with the appeasement steps taken during the past few days, including the release of a number of prisoners of conscience, the reshuffle of the government of Abdelaziz Djerad for the third time, the dissolution of parliament and the establishment of new youth bodies.

The new government line-up did not impress the public nor Algeria watchers.

This reshuffle did not in fact de-escalate the mounting tensions in the country. It became instead a subject of satire, the latest form  of resistance among the supporters of the popular protest movement.

With the comeback of two prominent figures of what is known as the “Bouteflika system” , namely Mohamed Ali Boughazi and Dalila Boujemaa , to the government, the regime has just consolidated the pillars of the system..

It proved that the narrative of change promoted so far was nothing but slogans. This further stoked the anger of the street, and added another argument for those who advocate for a complete overhaul of the system.

New Minister of Tourism Mohamed Ali Boughazi had previously held ministerial posts. He was an adviser to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika until he stepped down in April 2019.

As for Environment Minister Dalila Boujemaa, she also held the same position in previous Bouteflika governments.

A woman holds an Algerian flag as Algerians demonstrate in Algiers to mark the second anniversary of the Hirak movement, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP)
A woman holds an Algerian flag as Algerians demonstrate in Algiers to mark the second anniversary of the Hirak movement, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP)

In his cabinet reshuffle, which did not affect the key ministries, Tebboune kept the Minister of Justice Belkacem Zeghmati in his position, even if the latter had become a symbol of the judicial prosecution of political opponents and Hirak activists. He also maintained Minister of Communication and  Official Government Spokesperson Ammar Belhimer, who exerts influence over the media.

In reaction to the disappointing reshuffle, Algerians returned to the streets to demonstrate against the ruling system and reiterate the same demands for real change that they have been voicing for two years.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets, Monday, in Algiers and other major cities to demonstrate against the ruling elite, and to express their continued commitment to the basic demands of the popular protest movement, which include the exit of the regime as well as comprehensive political changes in the country.

Algeria, which has gone through two years of polarisation between the street against the authorities, is back at square one.

One the one hand, there is the street which has not been deterred by the pandemic, by counter-propaganda or by the 14-month suspension of protests, while on the other hand, there are the authorities which are not ready to make real concessions that could take the country out of its ongoing impasse.

The authorities even continue to invoke conspiracy theories to explain the continuing protests.

Government Spokesman Ammar Belhimer said Monday that Algeria is confronted to “an intensive and vile electronic war aimed at undermining the elements that constitute the secret of Algeria’s strength and reflect the unique state of fusion between the army and the nation.”

“The enemies of Algeria have tried to invest maliciously in the movement,” added the spokesman in a statement published on his official Facebook page on the occasion of the second anniversary of the popular protest movement.

Since the time the military monopolised the management of the country’s affairs during the institutional vacuum phase, the authorities have not been able to convince protesters to support the political course it has followed since the end of 2019.

The presidential elections that produced Tebboune as the head of state, the adoption of a new constitution and the successive government reshuffles have not offered sufficient political guarantees of real change to the street and did they set the country on the path of a genuine solution to the crisis.

The new government reshuffle, the third of the Abdelaziz Djerad government, disappointed many political forces, such as the Ennahda Movement (Muslim Brotherhood) and the Workers Party (leftist).

General Secretary of the Workers’ Party Louisa Hanoune declared that “dissolving parliament and introducing a government reshuffle will not solve the crisis”.  Her words were illustrated by the two anti-government demonstrations and rallies, Monday.

The protesters dismissed the warnings and fears about the spread of the pandemic, as many believed that “the authorities have used the public health crisis to suppress the movement, retaliate against activists and forcefully impose its agenda.”

They contend that “14 months of suspension have not dampened the activists’ political will, and the authorities find themselves today confronted to a fait accompli.”

As in the capital, Algerian men and women of different age groups and political and ideological orientations, came out in all regions of the country to renew the same political demands they had raised two years ago.

Source link