A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bouteflika-"Toufik" Dispute Intensifies in Algeria

The increasingly open feud between Algerian President Bouteflika and the longtime head of the DRS Military Intelligence Service Gen. Mohamed Mediene (known as "Toufik") seems to be heating up and perhaps heading for  showdown. After FLN Party Secretary-General Amar Saadani recently said that Mediene had failed in multiple crises and should step down, the General's defenders  have been hitting back. One wing of the FLN Party now says it will no longer recognize Saadani, and parts of the press have been widely critical of Saadani's comments.

But nobody believes that Saadani was speaking for himself only; sine late last year, Bouteflika has sought to reduce he influence of the DRS, which is a key component of what Algerians refer to as le Pouvoir and Westerners often call "the Generals." "Toufik" is widely believed to oppose Boiuteflika's running for a fourth term, and the DRS has gone after some Bouteflika allies for alleged corruption; since last year there have been reports that Bouteflika has reshuffled the intelligence community to reduce the power of the DRS, which Mediene has headed since its founding in 1990 (and headed its predecessor before that)..

Appropriately for a figure who works in the shadows, even the exact looks of the General are disputed (link is in French) and many published photos are disputable at best.

Now there is growing speculation in the French media that Bouteflika may intend to retire not only "Toufik" but many other senior DRS officials (link in French); like the President the General is in his 70s and a law permits the President to retire officers over age 66 with 42 years of service; Mediene has been in the military since independence. Whether Bouteflika can succeed if he tries is not so clear; the fact that Mediene, or those he controls and influences, are fighting back does seem clear, though. Presumably the move would come soon, as Bouteflika must declare by early March if he is in fact running in the April Presidential elections. At least one report says the decision has already been made (link in French).

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