Promises to Keep

Since taking office in April, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has boosted his popularity through a platform of national reconciliation and promises to tackle corruption. But observers suggest that the Algerian leader finds himself at odds with factions in the country’s powerful military, reports Nasr El-Qaffas in Cairo’s semi-official Al-Ahram Weekly (Oct. 21-27).

On Oct. 11, Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed government official, reported that the military had blocked Bouteflika’s long-awaited cabinet nominations. The military veto, says El-Qaffas, stemmed from Bouteflika’s attempt to pave an independent course by appointing allies such as Hazid Zerhouni as Minister of Defense. Bouteflika asked the official Algerian Press Agency (APS) to reprint the Reuters story.

In Cairo’s English-language weekly, the Middle East Times, (Oct. 7-13), Nora Beldjoudi calls Bouteflika’s use of Reuters a strategy to confront the military and let people know “how he is trying to keep his promises while the generals are not giving him free rein.”

A week later, Bouteflika was on the offensive again, this time ordering APS to publish the contents of a letter sent to him by a critic in parliament. The letter excoriated him for his much-publicized handshake with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the funeral of Morocco’s King Hassan II in July and his failure to enforce a recently enacted Arabization law mandating the use of Arabic in state affairs.