BEIRUT

Middle East

Talks open to revise Algerian constitution

File - President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks on during a swearing-in ceremony in Algiers April 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Louafi Larbi)

ALGIERS: Consultations opened Sunday to reform Algeria's disputed constitution, which President Abdelaziz Bouteflika amended to win a third term in office in 2008 and a fourth in April.

A revised charter, promised by Bouteflika after his re-election, would bar any future president from serving more than two consecutive terms and introduce several other changes.

The national news agency APS said talks to amend the constitution headed by former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia kicked off at the presidential compound.

Ouyahia held his first meeting with Seguir Babes who heads Algeria's National Economic and Social Council and was due to hold also talks with other figures.

Although political parties and scores of politicians, civil society groups and public and private figures have agreed to sit down with Ouyahia to thrash out the new amendments, many others are boycotting the talks.

Ali Benflis, Bouteflika's main rival in the April polls, and who has refused to recognise the incumbent's re-election by more than 80 percent of the vote, leads the boycott.

Benflis told El-Watan newspaper on Saturday that Algeria was facing a "government crisis", not "a constitutional crisis".

Ex-foreign minister Ahmed Taleb, who was also a candidate in the April vote, told El-Watan he would boycott talks because the proposed amendments were not "a serious political offer" of change.

The 77-year-old Bouteflika, who suffered a mini strike last year, vowed in his campaign to pursue constitutional reform that would strengthen the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary.

He also pledged to promote the rights of the opposition, which plays a marginal role in Algerian politics.

In early May, he unveiled a new cabinet, headed by long-time ally and campaign manager Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, but failed to win over the opposition who refused to join the line-up.

 

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