Algerian parliament elects new speaker

By Abdel Razek Abdallah

ALGIERS (AA) – The Algerian parliament on Wednesday elected Mouad Bouchareb as a new speaker for the assembly in a session boycotted by opposition parties.

Bouchareb was nominated for the post on Tuesday by Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (NLF).

He was the sole nominee for the post and he secured the support of Algeria’s National Rally for Democracy, the Tajamou Amel el-Djazair, the Algerian Popular Movement and a parliamentary bloc of independent MPs.

Along with the NLF, the four political blocs hold a combined 232 out of 462 seats in parliament, ensuring an easy majority for the ruling party’s candidate.

In his speech after being elected, Bouchareb, 47, who hails from Algeria’s Setif province, thanked Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and NLF head for placing trust in him for the post.

Meanwhile, opposition political parties boycotted the session, citing what they describe as the “illegal” ouster of former speaker of parliament Said Bouhadja last month after a dispute with lawmakers.

According to the Algerian Constitution, the speaker of parliament can be only replaced in case of death, resignation or medical disability.

Bouhadja refused to resign and told local media that he is “still the legitimate chairman of the assembly”.

He had stirred significant controversy due to his decision to sack Bachir Slimani, secretary-general of the assembly.

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Algeria’s NLF announces candidate for assembly speaker

By Abdulrazek Abdallah

ALGIERS (AA) – Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (NLF) on Tuesday named its nominee for the post of parliamentary speaker.

“Mouad Bouchareb is the NLF’s nominee for the post of president of the National People's Assembly,” NLF Secretary-General Djamel Ould Abbes said in a statement.

Bouchareb is also expected to secure the support of Algeria’s National Rally for Democracy, the Tajamou Amel el-Djazair, the Algerian Popular Movement and a parliamentary bloc of independent MPs.

Along with the NLF, the four political blocs hold a combined 233 out of 462 seats in parliament, ensuring an easy majority for the ruling party’s candidate.

Bouchareb, 47, hails from Algeria’s Setif province. If elected to the post of assembly speaker, he will succeed Said Bouhadja, who was ousted from the post last month amid disputes with lawmakers.

Bouhadja had stirred significant controversy due to his decision to sack Bachir Slimani, secretary-general of the assembly.

Over 300 irregular migrants held across Turkey

TEKIRDAG/EDIRNE/CANAKKALE/ERZINCAN, Turkey (AA) – At least 305 irregular migrants were held across Turkey, security sources said Tuesday.

In northwestern province of Edirne’s Meric and Uzunkopru districts , Turkish gendarmerie units rounded up 155 irregular migrants near the Bulgarian border, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media.

The migrants — nationals of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, Tunisia, Somalia and Palestine — were referred to the immigration office.

Meanwhile, in the eastern province of Erzincan, 98 irregular migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh were held.

Also, six other irregular migrants, all Pakistani nationals, were held by gendarmery forces in Malkara district of northwestern Tekirdag province, and later referred to the immigration office.

Separately, in Ayvacik district of northwestern Canakkale province, coast guards held 46 irregular migrants.

The Afghans and Iranians were planning to cross into the Greek islands and Europe.

Turkey has been a main route for irregular migrants trying to cross into Europe, especially since 2011 when the Syrian civil war began.

*S. Ahmet Aytac from Ankara contributed to this story

Algerian PM denies plans to dissolve parliament

By Abdul Razzaq bin Abdullah

ALGIERS (AA) – Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on Saturday denied any plans to dissolve the parliament over a crisis with its speaker Said Bouhadja.

Bouhadja has rejected pressures by lawmakers to resign amid accusations for the speaker of failing to run sessions.

“There will be no dissolution of the National People’s Assembly (parliament),” Ouyahia told reporters.

“The parliament speaker was elected by his colleagues (MPs), and there has been a misunderstanding,” he said, admitting that the misunderstanding in parliament “has reached a deadlock”.

Meanwhile, Ouyahia said the next presidential election in Algeria will be held next year as scheduled, without giving a specific date for the polls.

Algerian speaker of parliament announces resignation

ALGIERS (AA) – Algerian Speaker of Parliament Said Bouhadja officially resigned from his post on Friday due to disputes with other lawmakers.

According to one parliamentary source, Bouhadja has already submitted his resignation.

“His resignation was a foregone conclusion after he lost the trust of the ruling National Liberation Front (NLF) and a number of lawmakers,” the source, speaking anonymously due to the issue’s sensitivity, said.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who leads the NLF, has yet to approve Bouhadja’s resignation, however.

Bouhadja’s abrupt resignation comes shortly after his decision to sack Bachir Slimani, parliament’s secretary-general — a move that had stirred considerable controversy.

In 2017, Bouhadja was elected parliamentary speaker, replacing Mohamed Larbi Ould Khelifa.

France to honor Algerian harkis, give them €40m in aid

By Hajer M'tiri

PARIS (AA) – The French government will offer honors and nearly €40 million ($47 million) in financial support to Algerian Muslims who aided French troops in the north African country’s independence war, an official said Tuesday.

The announcement by Genevieve Darrieussecq, Secretary of State to the Minister of Armies, comes weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged for the first time in France's history that his country carried out systematic torture during the 1954-62 conflict.

"Yes, 56 years ago in Algeria, France in fact abandoned some of its own soldiers, some of its own citizens," Darrieussecq said, adding France had "failed in its duty to welcome or protect those who had fought for it”.

Macron – the first French president born after the Algerian conflict – has turned his attention to these “harkis”, an often derogatory term for the Algerian Muslims who helped the French in the brutal eight-year war of independence.

The financial support package will be awarded to the nearly 8,000 surviving harkis and their families over four years.

Only 60,000 of the 150,000 Algerians recruited by the French army as auxiliaries during the war managed to move to France, where they lived in poverty and faced discrimination.

The tens of thousands left behind in Algeria, considered traitors by the new regime, faced bloody reprisals.

Macron caused controversy during last year’s presidential campaign by declaring that France’s colonization of Algeria was a "crime against humanity" before backtracking on his comments, calling for "neither denial nor repentance" over France’s colonial history, adding: "We cannot remain trapped in the past."

As Algerian army retirees protest, NGO urges restraint

By Abdul Razak bin Abdullah

ALGIERS (AA) – An Algerian rights group on Monday called for dialogue to resolve ongoing protests by retired military personnel demanding higher pensions.

In a statement, the League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), a prominent Algerian NGO, said that National Gendarmerie forces on Sunday had forcibly dispersed a protest by thousands of army retirees in the Haouch al-Makhfi district of capital Algiers.

According to the LADDH, the dispersal led to clashes between protesters and gendarmerie forces, leaving an undetermined number of people injured.

Condemning the use of force against demonstrators, the NGO went on to urge that the dispute be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

It also called on frustrated army retirees to show restraint, saying that street protests alone “will not lead to solutions”.

For the last several months, Algerian army retirees and injured veterans have been staging protests to demand higher pensions and access to low-cost housing.

On Sunday, thousands of retired military personnel from across Algeria converged on the city of Boumerdes (located some 50 kilometers east of Algiers) with a view to marching on the capital.

The planned demonstration was called off, however, after security forces sealed the capital’s entrances with a view to preventing protesters’ entry into the city.

Algeria confirms shake-up among top military brass

By Abdul Razak bin Abdullah

ALGIERS (AA) – The Algerian Defense Ministry on Wednesday confirmed reports of major changes to the country’s military command hierarchy.

In a statement, the ministry confirmed that Said Chenagriha, commander of Algeria’s third military zone, would replace Ahcene Tager — who is retiring — as chief of the country’s ground forces.

The same statement also confirmed that Major-General Hamid Boumaiza would assume the role of air force chief, replacing Major-General Abdelkader Lounes, who is also reportedly retiring.

The replacements follow a raft of similar changes unveiled by officials earlier this week.

On Monday, the Defense Ministry announced that Mohamed Zanakhri, the ministry’s secretary-general, had been sacked — and replaced by General Hamid Ghraise — on the orders of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Since the beginning of 2018, Bouteflika has replaced several senior security officials, including the chief of Algeria’s Defense Ministry-affiliated gendarmerie and the country’s chief of police.

Germany's Merkel arrives in Algeria

By Abdel-Razek Abdallah

ALGIERS (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Algeria on Monday for a one-day visit to discuss bilateral ties and regional developments with local officials.

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia received Merkel at Algiers’s Houari Boumediene Airport, according to Algerian state radio.

Merkel’s visit, which comes at the invitation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is intended to “strengthen relations… and enhance the bilateral economic and trade partnership”, according to a statement released by Algeria’s presidency.

The German chancellor, the statement adds, is slated to hold talks with Algerian officials regarding ongoing crises in Libya, the Western Sahara, Mali, and North Africa’s Sahel region.

The fight against terrorism and irregular migration are also reportedly on the list of topics to be discussed.

French-Algerian singer Rachid Taha dies at 59

By Hajer M'tiri

PARIS (AA) – French-Algerian singer Rachid Taha, giant of 1980s French rock and icon of Algerian Rai music, died of a heart attack in his Paris home Tuesday night. He was 59.

“It is with regret and immense sadness that his son Lyes, his family and relatives, his friends and his record label Naïve, announce the death of artist Rachid Taha, following a heart attack overnight at his home in the Lilas [near Paris],” his family said in a statement on Wednesday.

Taha was a magnetic and popular figure on the French rock scene ever since his 1981 debut as the charismatic leader of Carte de Sejour French band.

Mixing punk and rock with Maghrebi music known as rai, Taha and his band voiced the feelings and aspirations of the second generation of Maghrebian community in France.

Born in Algeria, Taha moved to France at the age of 10, and became an icon for many generations.

He released 10 albums mixing rock, punk, rai, and electro, singing in French, English, and Arabic. Taha's 1998 popular album "Diwan" featured Algerian folk songs, including smash hit "Ya Rayah" (You, the one leaving), which reached number 11 on the French singles charts.

Taha was preparing to release his new album Believe.