Algerian power struggle intensifies

The power struggle between Algeria's two leading politicians has intensified after a court froze "all the activities" of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party.

    Ali Benflis is tipped to take over as president next year

    Tuesday's decision by the administrative chamber of the Algiers C

    ourt came after a complaint against Ali Benflis, the FLN's secretary-general, by supporters of President Abd al-Aziz Bouteflika.

    The faction's leader, Foreign Minister Abd al-Aziz Belkhadim,

    accused Benflis of taking over the FLN at a party congress last

    March.

    Belkhadim said 75 of the FLN's 203 deputies

    have joined his reform movement, as well

    as 3000 local assembly members and a large number of

    activists.

    The court also froze the FLN's funds.

    Presidential election 

    Benflis reacted immediately to the move, saying it "shows

    once again that the president... will stop at nothing to slake his

    unquenchable thirst for power".

    "I will go to this election, strenghtened by the support of my fellow citizens and determined to turn the page on the era of ostracism and monopolistic exercise of power," he said.

    The FLN secretary-general, fired as government chief by Bouteflika in May, has

    announced his candidacy in next April's presidential election.

    Bouteflika has yet to announce if
    he will seek a second term

    The

    president, meanwhile, has not yet said whether he will vie for a

    second term.

    Benflis was re-elected secretary general of the FLN, the north

    African country's former sole ruling party, at the party congress in March.

    FLN crisis

    The congress

    also broadened his powers and dropped the FLN's backing of

    Bouteflika, whom the party had propelled to power in April 1999.

    The FLN is facing its worst internal crisis since bloody riots

    in October 1988 ended the monopoly of power it had enjoyed, following

    independence from France in 1962.

    The rivalry between Bouteflika and Benflis came into full public

    view in September when the president sacked six ministers known to

    be close to Benflis.

    Then on 2 October, the FLN withdrew all other pro-Benflis

    ministers from the government because of what it described as

    Bouteflika's "irresponsible and heretical behaviour".

    SOURCE: AFP


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