Algeria president to launch major political reforms

Reuters , Saturday 16 Apr 2011

Algeria to launch legislative reforms in light of pro-democracy uprisings sweeping the region

University students carry a police barricade during clashes with riot police as they take part in a demonstration in Algiers 12 April 2011. (Reuters)

Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika said on Friday he will launch legislative reforms and amend the constitution, a move aimed at heading off a wave of pro-democracy uprisings sweeping the Arab world.

"I will urge the parliament to review all the legislative framework," Bouteflika, 74, said in a speech broadcast by state-owned television.

The president, who has not spoken in public for at least three months, said he had decided to amend the constitution "to reinforce representative democracy" in Algeria.

Unlike the nationwide uprisings which toppled leaders in nearby Egypt and Tunisia, Algeria's protests to date have been localised and have yet to coalesce into a nationwide political movement.

But the growing protests have become a daily occurrence in the capital and a threat to OPEC member Algeria's stability.

The Algerian government's strategy so far to deal with the wave of strikes and demonstrations has been to use the oil money to give protesters what they want. Commentators say this has inspired other people to take their demands to the street.

In his 30 minute-long speech, Bouteflika also announced that he would change the electoral law to make it more representative and invite foreign observers to supervise the next presidential election, due in 2014.

"All measures will be taken to ensure free and fair elections including supervision by international observers," Bouteflika said in his speech.

"Acknowledging that political reforms, not only social and economic reforms will help to solve the crisis is key," Mohamed Lagab, a political analyst and teacher at Algiers' university, told Reuters.


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