By François Conradie, Head of Research at NKC African Economics
On Wednesday, October 24, Mouad Bouchareb was elected as the new speaker of the National People’s Assembly (APN), the lower house of Parliament.
He was elected almost unanimously (320 votes for, one abstention), but that was because all opposition deputies were boycotting the vote, so only deputies from the ruling coalition were present in the chamber.
The opposition MPs are against Mr Bouchareb’s election because his predecessor, Said Bouhadja, was removed unconstitutionally earlier in the month, when the ruling coalition caucus declared the position vacant although the constitution does not provide for any procedure of this kind.
The constitution stipulates that “the president [speaker] of the APN is elected for the duration of the legislature”.
There was some drama later as MPs from the caucus physically locked the chamber door to prevent Mr Bouhadja from doing his job.
The ruling coalition is made up of four parties: the National Liberation Front (FLN) of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the National Democratic Rally (RND) of Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, the Algerian Popular Movement (MPA) and Taj, the party of former minister Amar Ghoul. Mr Bouchareb was until now the chief whip of the FLN caucus.
On Wednesday, when Mr Bouchareb was voted in, one of these MPs stated that Mr Bouteflika approved of the change.
There has been some media comment focusing on Mr Bouchareb’s youth: he is 47, and the ruling coalition is trying to portray his investiture as some sort of renewal. But Mr Bouhadja was removed, and Mr Bouchareb picked in his stead, so that the ruling coalition could have tighter control of the legislature.
This may become relevant as the process carries on to get Mr Bouteflika re-elected in April (although he has not yet announced his candidacy), in case the people trying to make that happen need a pliant speaker.