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Algeria's ruling parties shore up backing of ailing president

29 May 2015, 20:14

Algiers - Algeria's main ruling parties are reinforcing their backing for ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as lower world oil prices eat into the budget of the North African OPEC state, analysts said on Friday.

The parties' reshuffle follows a cabinet shake-up of new ministers by Bouteflika. He was re-elected to a fourth term last year but has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke two years ago.

Also read: Fighting in northern Mali forces tens of thousands to flee - UN

On Thursday, Abdelkader Bensaleh, 74, resigned from the National Rally for Democracy or RND, the second ruling party alongside National Liberation Front or FLN, which has led the country since 1962 independence from France.

The move clears the way for Bouteflika's loyal backer and director of the cabinet, Ahmed Ouyahia, to lead the RND, possibly positioning him to run as presidential successor, analysts said.

"It is not a secret that Ouyahia is a potential Bouteflika successor," political analyst Farid Ferrahi said.

Amar Sadani, leader of the ruling FLN party, will keep his position after Bouteflika expressed support for him during the party congress on Friday.

Since Bouteflika's illness, Algeria has speculated over who might replace him should he end his mandate following more than 15 years in office.

Analysts say backroom consensus among the FLN elites and other political power brokers mean Algeria will likely see a smooth transition. The country's leadership is keen to avoid the instability roiling the rest of the region.

Algeria is a U.S. ally in the campaign against Islamist militancy in North Africa and the Sahel, following its own war with Islamist extremists in the 1990s. It is also a key gas supplier to Europe.

But falling oil prices have cut into energy revenues that make up around 95 percent of the state budget. The country's own energy production has stagnated in recent years as foreign oil investors have mostly shied away.

Algeria has almost $200 billion in foreign reserves and little debt. But its oil and gas revenues fell 42 percent in the first four months of this year, and the government has suspended some major infrastructure projects and frozen some public sector hiring.

- Reuters


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