Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

The 50-year old businessman appointed to lead FLN in the post-Abdelaziz Bouteflika Algeria

The party is dominated by ageing leaders who have been in place since independence in 1962

Mohamed Djemai, (R) was elected to lead Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party. Reuters
Mohamed Djemai, (R) was elected to lead Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party. Reuters

Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party has elected the relatively young businessman, Mohamed Djemai, as its new leader just a month after the ailing 82-year old now ex-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit in the face of mass protests.

Mr Bouteflika's exit has not quieted protesters, who are now demanding the dismantling of an entire ruling elite entrenched for decades, a shift towards more democracy and a crackdown on systemic corruption and cronyism.

Mr Djemai, whose business interests have included smartphones, is a relatively youthful figure now leading the FLN, most of whose senior officials are in their 70s and have dominated Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

He is very much a man from inside the political establishment, having been a member of parliament for 17 years and was vice-president of the country’s lower National Assembly for nine years.

Mr Djemai, from the Algerian-Tunisian border town of Tebessa, replaces Moad Bouchareb who stepped down at the same time as Mr Bouteflika a month ago.

The FLN has ruled since independence in 1962. Mr Djemai said that the part will lead Algeria to a position of security, the private Ennahar TV quoted him as saying.

Until presidential elections on July 4, Algeria – a major oil and gas producer – will be run by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament. He is now caretaker president, although he has also faced demands to resign.

Many Algerians hardly took notice of the FLN leadership appointment as they pressed for deeper changes.

The army remains the most powerful institution in Algeria, having swayed politics from the shadows for decades. It has so far patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests that at times have swelled to hundreds of thousands of people.

Earlier on Tuesday, the army chief of staff, Lt Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah – who helped push out Mr Bouteflika after having him declared unfit for office – said several big corruption cases would come to light in a crackdown on graft, Ennahar TV reported.

Algerian protestors shout slogans during a demonstration marking May Day in Algiers on May 1, 2019. / AFP / RYAD KRAMDI
Algerian protestors shout slogans during a demonstration marking May Day in Algiers. AFP

A number of figures from the ruling elite including the finance minister, former prime minister and several oligarchs have come under investigation in recent weeks.

"The judiciary has been freed from all pressures," Lt Gen Salah said in a speech at a base in the eastern city of Constantine. "The country will be cleansed of corruption and corrupt people."

Lt Gen Salah spoke hours after former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, who was sacked as part of a Cabinet reshuffle two days before Mr Bouteflika resigned, appeared in court as part of a corruption investigation.

There was no immediate comment from Mr Ouyahia or his lawyers. It is up to the court to decide whether there is enough evidence for him to face a formal charge. Mr Ouyahia later left the court after being questioned by a prosecutor, state TV said.

"Put Ouyahia in prison," read a banner held up as dozens of protesters gathered near the court in the capital, Algiers.

On Monday, Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal – a former central bank governor who only got the job from Mr Bouteflika last month – appeared in court in relation to an investigation into suspected misuse of public funds, state TV reported.

At least five tycoons, some close to Mr Bouteflika, have been detained and accused of involvement in corruption scandals.

Updated: May 1, 2019 08:20 PM

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