Algeria’s government green-lights draft constitutional reforms

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Algeria’s government has adopted draft constitutional revisions aimed at responding to the demands of the country’s “Hirak” protest movement, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has said.

“The proposal is fully in line with the requirements of modern state building and responds to the demands of the popular movement (Hirak),” said Tebboune late Sunday, according to a statement.

Tebboune had promised to press for reforms during elections late last year after the resignation of long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika under pressure from the movement, which widely rebuffed the polls.

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The revised text must still be approved by parliament - a formality - before it is put to a popular referendum on November 1, the anniversary of the start of Algeria’s 1954-1962 war of independence from France.

In the statement, the government pledged the reforms would bring a “radical change in the system of governance,” prevent corruption and enshrine social justice and press freedoms in the constitution.

The revision also sets out to reinforce the “principle of separation of powers and balance of power, the moralization of political life and transparency in the management of public funds,” so as to “spare the country any drift toward tyrannical despotism,” the statement added.

Algeria’s constitution has been modified several times since the country’s independence and was tailored to Bouteflika, who gained unlimited powers of appointment for top official positions.

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A file photo shows Algerian protesters march with a giant national flag during a demonstration in the capital Algiers on May 31, 2019. (AFP)
A file photo shows Algerian protesters march with a giant national flag during a demonstration in the capital Algiers on May 31, 2019. (AFP)

Anti-government protests led by the Hirak erupted last year and forced the resignation of Bouteflika in April 2019, but they continued after his ouster demanding wholesale political change.

Since Bouteflika’s resignation, the judiciary has levied heavy prison sentences against former officials and influential businessmen once close to him, in particular over charges of corruption and nepotism.

But since the weekly Hirak protests were halted in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, political opponents, independent media and activists have also been targets of a crackdown.

The revised constitution has already been criticized by jurists and rejected by a group of parties and associations linked to Hirak, which has slammed it as a “laboratory constitution” and described the referendum as “treachery.”

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