Since he assumed power at the end of 2019, the Algerian president, Abdel Majid Tebboune, has been trying to tighten his control over the levers of power, in a country where decision-making centers multiply and the factions’ struggles do not end.
At first glance, it seemed that Tebboune would be in front of a paved road to install his feet in the El Mouradia Palace, but the death of his strong ally, the army commander, Ahmed Qaid Saleh, a week after his inauguration as president of the country, confused his cards and made him fully restore his accounts.
Tebboune changes in Algeria
After Tebboune found himself exposed in the centers of decision and sectarianism that had formed during the Bouteflika period and before it, Tebboune first decided to ensure the loyalty of the military establishment and to neutralize it from any potential conflict in alliance with the new commander of the army, Said Chengriha.
Tebboune divided Major General Chengriha to the rank of Lieutenant General, and established him in his position as Chief of Staff of the Army, after he was assuming the position on behalf of the army, then he released his hand inside the institution to rearrange it as required by circumstances. With the removal of the strong man in the military establishment and the right hand of Qaid Saleh, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Defense, Abdul Hamid Grace.
On his way to liquidate Gaid Salah’s legacy and tighten his control over the institutions with his ally Chengriha, Tebboune clashed with the director of the Internal Security Agency (the most important branch of intelligence) and Aseni Boazza, who is the strongman and a close associate of Gaid Salah.
The conflict between Bouazza, who was opposed to the arrival of Tebboune to the El Mouradia Palace, ended in favor of the latter with the help of Lieutenant General Chengriha.
The Algerian newspaper, Al-Watan, which is close to the security services, says, “The way Boazza was removed from his post is similar to police films, as he was summoned to an urgent meeting at the Ministry of Defense, and his bodyguards were prevented from entering with him to the meeting, to find in the hall special forces who arrested him and transferred him to court. Al-Askari, which sentenced him to 8 years in prison, on charges of violating military orders and the rebellion, and other cases await him under investigation, most notably interference in the presidencies, his support for Tebboune’s rival Ezzedine Mihoubi, in addition to his use of electronic flies to distort movement activists and politicians.
After reassuring about the military establishment, the president moved to other agencies, where he made several changes to both the police and gendarmerie, and also appointed security and military advisers who are said to be affiliated with the former intelligence apparatus, which Bouteflika dismantled with Gaid Salah in 2015.
Data overload is cause for concern
The well-known rule says that the large number of reassuring statements is a cause for concern, which can be dropped on the case of Tebboune and the military establishment, as Tebboune and Chengriha do not miss any media output until they talk about the good relations between the president and the army.
In his last press interview a week ago, Tebboune said, “There are no differences between him and the military establishment, on the contrary.”
Chengriha also insists that “the army does not interfere in politics, and works under the direct command of the President of the Republic, Minister of National Defense and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Abdul Majid Tebboune.”
“The presidency and the army are well aware of the seriousness of the stage the country is going through regionally and locally, especially after the return of the movement and its clear attempts to penetrate it,” says the expert in civil-military relations, Dr. Muhammad Dakhosh.
Dakhoush added in his interview with “Arabi Post” that “the army and the presidency have made sure that any conflict between them could be against their interests and that of the political arena in the country.”
The spokesman believes that “the military establishment is moving towards a voluntary, gradual withdrawal from the political scene, fearing that its image will be affected by the Algerian society, which respects it as a chain of the National Liberation Army,” as he put it.
Dakhoush believes that “building ideal and balanced civil-military relations in a democratic environment must be based on submitting the armed forces to the balanced control between the executive and parliamentary authorities, organizing cases of army interference in times of peace, defining their legal character and covering them, with the participation of the executive and parliamentary authorities in controlling the budget of the military institution and supervising it.” Accordingly, this condition is considered one of the most important components of civilian oversight of the armed forces, and I believe that the last condition will be fulfilled in light of the indicators that the military institution sends, which is its endeavor to achieve a gradual voluntary withdrawal from influencing the political scene, in order to avoid the consequences of that on the political and symbolic levels. .
Returning to the size of the changes that Tebboune undertook in the security services since his accession to power, it turned out that they are changes that can be described as radical.
In his interview with Arab Post, Dr. Dakhoush comments on the recent changes by saying: “With regard to the changes at the level of the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Defense and the General Directorate of National Security, I believe they were expected, and they come in the context of completing the series of changes undertaken by the leadership at the top of the pyramid.”
The same spokesman reveals that “the changes, since they began, have affected a number of leaders of the main branches of the armed forces, such as the National Gendarmerie, the Navy and the Air Force, as well as the directors of the internal and external intelligence service, as well as at the level of vital interests associated with the Chief of Staff, such as the change that took place at the level of department officials.” The use and preparation of the Armed Forces, the Organization and Supply Department, the Signal and Electronic Warfare Department.
As for the professor of political science at the University of Algiers, Bouhdil Radwan, he believes that the president “freely exercises his powers, appointing everyone he deems suitable for those positions in which changes have been made.”
Bohdel said in a statement to “Arab Post”, “The recent changes that Tebboune is making are in line with the regional conditions and the threats facing the country.”
Regarding the talk about Tebboune trying to control the joints of the state and consolidate his rule with these changes, Bohdil stated that “the matter is much simpler than that, so that the president exercises his powers that are conferred upon him by the constitution while he makes changes according to data that he owns only.”