x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Has Algeria's succession battle begun?

Warrants issued against confidants of the ailing president may indicate a move by the military to choose his replacement, an Arabic-language columnist says. Other writers focus on the events in Egypt.

The international arrest warrant that has been issued for Algeria's ex-oil minister Chakib Khelil and some of his relatives in connection with a corruption case raises questions as to whether the military has started the battle to choose a successor for unwell President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, remarked Randa Takieddine in an opinion article for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

Mr Khelil, 74, is a US citizen who worked for the World Bank in Washington for a long period; he was also a trusted confidant of President Bouteflika who offered him a post as a minister of oil and mines in 2000.

The Algerian judiciary accuses Mr Khelil, some members of his family and a nephew of the former Algerian foreign minister Farid Badjaoui, among others, of receiving exorbitant commissions in return for awarding oil contracts, while serving at Algeria's state oil firm, Sonatrach, the writer said.

The warrant for Mr Khelil and his relatives, who are now based in the US and hold its citizenship, raises questions about the link between the warrant, which is unlikely to be met especially that there is no agreement between the US and Algeria in this regard, and the start of the residential battle to succeed Mr Bouteflika and eliminate his closest friends.

In Algeria, the military - meaning a few powerful generals in the military who are the de facto authority - would by tradition agree on a shortlist of candidates, of which one who abides by their terms would eventually be elected. This is how President Bouteflika was chosen, although his decisions at times would not be identical to those of the generals who chose him, according to the writer.

Now Mr Bouteflika's ill-health and his inability to wholly discharge the duties of office has changed the game. Chances are that he will remain in office until the next presidential elections, due in April 2014, to avert any problems that might arise from a change of election date.

Yet anything is possible, the writer said. Although no such intentions have been leaked so far, the generals might agree on an earlier date if they deem it necessary to repel any trouble.

The generals who are not in good terms with President Bouteflika, his relatives and close friends might not want to involve him in the decision to choose a successor; hence the international arrest warrant for some of his confidants.

Issuing the warrant while Mr Khelil is in the US means he is held at bay.

Moreover, the writer said, corruption has been commonplace in Algeria for decades; otherwise things would have much different in a country so rich in oil and gas.

And so the timing of this warrant could be politically driven rather than a genuine attempt to hold the nation's many corrupt officials accountable.

Muslim Brotherhood have not lost the war

The Muslim Brotherhood have lost the battle of protest camps in Rabia Al Adawiyya Square in Cairo and Al Nahda Square in Giza, but they have not lost the war, as their opponents believe, wrote Emad Eddine Hussein in the Cairo-based paper Al Shorouk.

Those who say the Brotherhood are over forever are in the wrong. Modern history has not recorded an end of a religious organisation following such a hard blow. They might back off, but an end takes a long time, the writer noted.

To be sure, the Brotherhood were dealt a severe blow last Wednesday but they still have a few trump cards. At home, they have the disruption card, and abroad they have the ability to arouse sympathy through the blood of their victims.

The disruption weapon has been tried by the Brotherhood since last July, including attempts to block roads. After the protesters' camps were broken up, disruption turned into attacks on police station, churches and state institutions, although the Brotherhood have dismissed such accusations as attempts to defame them.

Since Mohammed Morsi's removal, the Brotherhood have managed to gain attention from the western media.

Now they have been given the biggest gift after the recent bloody crackdown, which earned them support from the western media and European governments, as well as a statement from the US president.

Civilian rights must be protected in Egypt

The deadly crackdown by Egypt's security forces on two sit-ins by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi claimed hundreds of lives and saw thousands of people, including women and children, injured, Abdelali Hami Eddine wrote in the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi.

Many nations and international organisations have condemned the killings that took place on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, some Egyptian parties have said the police operation was necessary to break up the protest camps, which reveals the deep crisis in Egypt, the columnist said.

"What happened was a natural and tragic result of the army's interference in political life and the failure to respect the people's will expressed in free and fair elections," Eddine said in the column.

The international community is now required to move from condemnation to urgent intervention to protect Egyptian civilians' rights to life and safety and guarantee their right to peaceful protest.

Criminal charges should also be brought against people proven to be involved in the massacre, the columnist concluded.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni