Multiple sources are saying that Algeria’s El-Mouradia presidential palace is working on a major cabinet reshuffle, which they say should be carried out in the next week or two. There has, however, been talk of imminent reshuffles since last November without anything more than the odd, and largely insignificant, change. This time the speculation is that at least seven ministers, including some big guns, should be replaced and changed.
Sources say that even Prime Minister Aïmen Benabderrahmane could be removed but there is no obvious heavyweight candidate with proven skills and vision to replace him. The name of Brahim Merad — the current Mediator of the Republic; a former wali; and former presidential adviser — is well thought of in the Presidency but little known outside it. The absence of any obvious proven candidate to manage the country when it is facing so many complex socio-economic and financial issues incline President Abdelmajid Tebboune to prolong the status quo which is causing the country so much harm.
Other heavyweights believed to be heading for the departure lounge include Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra and Energy Minister Mohamed Arkab. However, this does not mean that we will necessarily see their departure because both men enjoy the support of several powerful lobbies within the military.
It has been rumoured for a long time that Tebboune does not particularly like Lamamra. We believe that he was earmarked for dismissed in last November’s anticipated cabinet reshuffle which ultimately did not take place. Relations between the two men are said to be superficial, strictly professional and sometimes icy because of Lamamra’s proximity to influential decision-makers in the military institution. Tebboune’s entourage also suspects him of harbouring political ambitions of running for the Presidency in 2024. He could thus become a formidable competitor to Tebboune if the latter seeks a second term in office.
Given the almost continual flow of allegations of corruption and mismanagement within Sonatrach’s senior management, it will be surprising if Arkab remains in charge of the Energy Ministry. But, like Lamamra, he has powerful connections within the military who may well put their corrupt self-interest before those of the country.
Other ministers whose records have been very modest and who risk dismissal include the Minister of Industry, Ahmed Zeghdar, and the Minister of Agriculture, Mohammed Abdelhafid Henni. Faced with the worrying food crisis, Tebboune might well want to breathe new life into a sector deemed strategic by entrusting it to a new personality capable of meeting increasingly difficult challenges, not least the disastrous effects of Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Several other ministerial departments such as Labour, Employment and Social Security and National Education may face changes. Similarly, the Minister of Commerce Kamel Rezig and the Minister of Health Abderrahmane Benbouzid have both been the subjects of longstanding criticism because of their mismanagement of their ministries
The key decision in this anticipated reshuffle is almost certain to be that relating to the future of the Chief of Army Staff, General Saïd Chengriha, who, as we have explained, is likely to be shown the exit door. Within his corrupt, aged but nevertheless powerful camp, there are those who are pushing for him to follow in his predecessor General Ahmed Gaïd Salah’s footsteps as Deputy Defence Minister. If they get their way, it will not only demonstrate how enfeebled the Presidency has become but will also be a major impediment to the implementation of whatever reformist plans it may still be harbouring.
A way out of the Chengriha conundrum might be for Tebboune to appoint Chengriha as Deputy Defence Minister in his ministerial reshuffle, before announcing his retirement on 5 July.This excerpt is taken from Algeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Algeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.