By Ahmed Chaoui
By Ahmed Chaoui
Washington – The pre-election fever in Algeria threatens to morph into a full blown confrontation between powerful political clans.
In an unprecedented move, the General Secretary of the National Liberation Front (FLN), ruling party, publically criticized the head of the all-powerful Military Intelligence (DRS) accusing him of mismanagement and negligence. Mr. Amar Saadani blamed General Médiène for the precarious political and security situations in Algeria.
For local observers, this new chapter of infightings among the different cliques that form “the system” is a prelude to an upcoming power struggle over the future of Algeria’s presidency. Long time military and political figures with deep pockets and deeper network of cronies and collaborators are locked in a ruthless behind-the-scenes power struggle over “the right” to choose a successor to the ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Mr. Saadani fierce criticism of General Mohamed Médiène came as a shock to an Algerian public “trained” to fear the notorious DRS. Médiène (who reportedly called himself “the God of Algeria”) has been the most powerful and feared figure within the shadowy world of Algeria’s military establishment. The DRS has been the de-facto institution running the country since 1990. In the absence of transparency and political clarity, rampant stories of DRS’s role in major political assassinations and terror attacks against Algerians remain hard to corroborate and yet too genuine to discard.
Now, the Algerians public is left wondering about the rationale behind Mr. Saadani’s “courageous and honest” attack against the heart of the ‘’system”. The average citizen knows that the head of the FLN doesn’t have” the guts” to bash the DRS without solid support from within the military establishment.
Algerian observers who analyzed Mr. Saadani’s interview, during which he criticized General Médiène, noted that the FLN boss was conciliatory toward Said Bouteflika, the brother of the current president and a potential presidential candidate. The tone of Saadani leads some Algerians to believe that the attacks on the DRS are in fact FLN endorsement of Said candidacy, in case President Abdelaziz Bouteflika doesn’t run for a fourth mandate.
Indeed, Mr. Saadani’s daring comments have a solid politico-military cover. As more Algerian politicians and retired senior military officials came out to either defend or criticize the FLN boss comments, it is becoming evident that this clash is between the DRS and Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, Algeria’s Deputy Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff of the People’s National Army (PNA).
Retired General Hocine Benhadid’s harsh criticism of General Gaid Salah and Said Bouteflika in an interview with an Algerian online magazine reveals deep divisions amongst senior military officers and open hostility between the DRS and the PNA.
Knowledgeable sources familiar with the inner-working of Algeria’s military and security apparatus cite the leading role of the recently established “Special Committee on Security” (SCS) in controlling intelligence gathering in Algeria as the end of General Médiène era. General Saïd Bey, Gaid Salah’s deputy and close associate, is the brain behind the astonishment of the SCS. In essence, The PNA is taking over the DRS’s main function.
Some Algerian insiders describe Saadani’s jabs at the DRS as a smoke screen hiding Generals Gaid Salah and Bey schemes to remove General Médiène from the political scene. By discrediting Médiène and the DRS, Gaid Salah and his camp open the door for Said Bouteflika to present his prospective candidacy as viable. Under such scenario, the younger Bouteflika becomes the establishment’s candidate and, thus, a “grantor of stability”.
The recent arrest of General Hassan, a senior DRS officer and close aid to General Médiène, signals that General Gaid Salah has declared an all-out war against the DRS. According to Algerian daily “Eshourouk”, General Hassan “is accused of forming a criminal gang, arms trafficking and of committing grave security blunders, which led to last year’s bloody terrorist attack on the Tiguentourine gas complex in Amenas in Southern Algeria.”
As the three pillars of the Algerian system continue to undermine each other’s plans, the political status becomes unsustainable. In the “brawl” to install an ally as the next president, the Algerian military is gambling with the security and stability of North Africa and Southern Europe. Meanwhile, it is clear that the Algerian voters will have little direct say in the outcome of the polls.
Ahmed Chaoui is a freelance journalist based in Washington DC. Mr. Chaoui is native of Meknes, Morocco. He received a Masters degree in communications from the University of Maryland. Ahmed worked as a political adviser for several Non-Governmental Organizations in the Washington DC area.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed