Algeria's third premier this Year signals turmoil in OPEC state

Zenith

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika fired the nation’s prime minister only appointed in May, replacing him with a veteran politician who had already held the office three times since the mid-1990s.

The ouster of Abdelmadjid Tebboune came hours after his return from a lengthy vacation, Ennahar TV, a private channel, reported on its website. He was succeeded by Ahmed Ouyahia, state-run APS news agency said.

The rapid turnover at the top of the administration adds to the political and economic uncertainty in the OPEC member as it attempts to strengthen an economy hit by falling oil revenue. As crude prices declined, Algeria dipped into its foreign reserves, which have plummeted by about 45 percent since April 2014. Health concerns have surrounded Bouteflika, 80, since he suffered a stroke in 2013 and campaigned for a fourth term from a wheelchair.

Tebboune “didn’t measure up, and he didn’t measure up pretty quickly,” said Crispin Hawes, managing director of research firm Teneo Intelligence. “Ouyahia is a very familiar face, and in Algeria, familiarity is arguably the most important quality a politician can bring.”

Coming shortly after legislative elections, Tebboune’s appointment was part of a sweeping government reshuffle that soon brought in new oil, finance and foreign ministers. The tourism minister was fired within days of being named to the post.

Ouyahia inherits plans to further curb energy subsidies -- while introducing cash transfers for those most in need -- as the government moves cautiously toward living within its means. Generous spending on housing, health care and basic foodstuffs helped suppress dissent in the years following the Arab Spring. Oil and gas exports account for nearly 60 percent of the economy.

“This new appointment demonstrates that the entire political system does not know where it is going,” said Ferhat Ait Ali, an independent political analyst in Algiers. “They have no course.”