Algerian prime minister returns
In a move linked to his plans to stay in office for a third term, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Algerian president, has brought back as prime minister Ahmed Ouyahya, three years after he sacked him from the same job.
This will be the third time that Mr Ouyahya, who heads the National Rally for Democracy party, RND, has served as prime minister of the country – a major natural gas exporter to Europe.
Long reputed to be close to the country's powerful military intelligence, Mr Ouyahya is said by some analysts to have been reappointed to manage, on behalf of his backers, arrangements for the constitutional change that would allow the president a third term in office.
“The army needs to be party to these changes in order to control them,” said Ihsane El Qadi, an Algerian political analyst. “In the discussions about the content of the constitutional change, the presence of Ouyahya at the head of the government is a guarantee for the army.”
Mr Ouyahya played a similar role during the 2003 election which gave Mr Bouteflika his second term in office.
This was followed by the launch of another phase of Mr Bouteflika's national reconciliation plan which offered an amnesty to Islamic militants who laid down their arms, and at the same time made it a punishable crime to criticise the conduct of the military during the civil conflict of the 1990s.
Many in Algeria believe this was the product of a deal between Mr Bouteflika and the military under which he protected them from scrutiny over their human rights record and they allowed him to consolidate his power as president.
Algeria was plunged into a decade of political violence in 1992 after the army aborted a general election to preempt a victory by an Islamist party.
This unleashed an armed Islamist rebellion which the army tried to put down by force. Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities against civilians.
Mr Bouteflika was the army's choice as president in 1999. Since then he launched a series of amnesties for Islamic militants and presided over a dramatic reduction in the level of violence across the country.
By Heba Saleh
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008