Abdelmadjid Tebboune, President of the Republic of Algeria, has carried out a profound government reshuffle that has affected 11 ministries of the Algerian government. All this at a time of instability marked by international setbacks and popular protests.
Prime Minister Aïmene Benabderrahmane has seen this change of ministers decreed from the highest echelons of Algerian power, affecting up to 11 Algerian ministerial portfolios.
According to many analysts and experts, the real power in Algeria is still wielded by the army, currently led by the head of the armed forces, Said Chengriha, and the omnipresent ruling party, the National Liberation Front, to which President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who also holds the post of Defence Minister, belongs. A political formation that has been in power since the North African country gained independence from France and which also managed to win the last elections in 2021, marked by a low voter turnout in the face of the social discontent that exists, expressed against the political class due to the economic crisis dragging the country down, the lack of services and opportunities and the corruption in the spheres of power denounced precisely by the population, mobilised for the most part in regular protests carried out within the Hirak movement, which began in March 2019. A social outburst that led at the time to governmental changes and political promises that have not been fulfilled over time.
In the face of internal instability and the social protests represented by the Hirak movement, the government led by Abdelmadjid Tebboune has now undergone a profound reshuffle, with the omnipotent army always present in the background.
This governmental reshuffle affected the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Community Abroad, entrusted to Ahmed Attaf, the Ministry of Finance, assigned to Laaziz Fayed, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which returns to Abderrahmane Hammad, and the Ministry of Digitalisation and Statistics, which will be headed by Meriem Benmiloud, replacing Hocine Cherhabil, who was entrusted with other functions.
This reshuffle also affected the Ministry of Trade and Export Promotion, which will be taken over by Tayeb Zitouni, replacing Kamel Rezig, the Ministry of Hydraulics, which will be headed by Taha Derbal, the Ministry of Transport, headed by Youcef Chorfa, formerly Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts, which will be entrusted to Mokhtar Didouche.
As part of this ministerial reshuffle, the President of the Republic appointed Fayçal Bentaleb as Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Fazia Dahleb as Minister of the Environment and Renewable Energy, and Ahmed Bidani as Minister of Fisheries and Fish Production.
The President of the Republic also appointed Abdelaziz Khellaf as Minister of State and Adviser to the President of the Republic, and Mohamed Nadir Larbaoui as Head of Cabinet of the Presidency of the Republic. It was reported in the media that Larbaoui was going to step down as Algeria's permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) and take over the post of Amar Belani at the express wish of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. According to Maghreb Intelligence, this move in Algeria's representation to the UN was due to the president's dissatisfaction with Larbaoui's work.
Nadir Larbaoui gained ground in Algeria because of his clashes with his Moroccan counterpart, Omar Hilale. However, this trend has changed and Tebboune is said to have sought a tougher anti-Moroccan figure, such as Amar Belani, in order to regain a hard line against his regional adversary. Belani in particular has been characterised by a fierce "anti-Moroccan" stance, as Maghreb Intelligence noted.
It is also worth noting here that Algeria is seeing how Morocco, its great political rival in the Maghreb, is garnering important diplomatic support on the all-important issue of Western Sahara. Many important countries such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Spain have shown their support for the Moroccan proposal for Western Sahara as the most serious, credible and realistic way to resolve the Sahrawi conflict that has lasted more than four decades. The Alawi kingdom advocates a broad autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty while respecting UN resolutions. This is in contrast to the proposal of the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, which advocates holding a referendum on independence among the Sahrawi population, which is difficult to carry out due to the census and the conditions of this electoral consultation, according to various experts, and which has less international backing.
Algeria has recently taken a harder line against Morocco, as demonstrated by its decision in August 2011 to break off diplomatic relations with its North African neighbour due to deep political differences over issues such as Western Sahara and under accusations of alleged interference in its own political affairs and alleged 'hostile acts'.
Various analysts have pointed here to Algeria's international isolation on an issue as important as Western Sahara, in contrast to Morocco, which has been garnering more support in recent years, including from major powers. This situation has led Algeria to clash with nations such as Spain, with threats even of variations in the gas supply service, an area in which Algeria is of great importance as a major exporter worldwide thanks to its vast gas resources. Spain's case was due to Algeria's reprimand of the European country for its alignment with Morocco on the Saharawi issue, which led to a strong strengthening of diplomatic ties between Spain and the Moroccan kingdom. A rapprochement that became evident with the last High Level Meeting held in Rabat in the presence of the Spanish President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the head of the Moroccan government, Aziz Akhannouch, which served to sign many important agreements in various sectors. This put an end to a situation of Spanish-Moroccan political estrangement caused by the reception on Spanish territory of Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, to be treated for a major respiratory ailment in April 2021. Precisely, Spain's recognition of the Moroccan initiative for Western Sahara brought about a definitive rapprochement between two allied countries, Spain and Morocco.
Algeria also suffered a major setback when a traditional ally like Russia disavowed the Maghreb country over the episode of the military exercises in Béchar. The Algerian state had denied that joint military manoeuvres had been planned with Russia in this enclave near the border with Morocco. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed during an interview with Russia Today that his country and Algeria conducted military manoeuvres in Béchar last November. "In September 2022, the Vostok 2022 military exercises took place in Russia with the participation of Algerian military personnel. In November 2022, Russian units took part in command and staff exercises in Béchar province, Algeria," Lavrov noted, speaking about bilateral relations between the two nations.
In addition to confirming last November's manoeuvres - dubbed 'Desert Shield' - Lavrov also announced that the two countries will hold military exercises from 16-28 November 2023, also in Béchar.
All these disagreements may have led to the change in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with Ahmed Attaf taking over from Ramtane Lamamra, who was appointed to the post in March 2019, just as the nation's strong popular protests against the established power were unleashed. The situation in Algeria remains in turmoil, due to popular disenchantment and international setbacks suffered by the country, and this may have affected the Algerian government.