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EXXAfrica Report: Political Stalemate in Algeria

EXXAFRICA REPORT.

The political stalemate between the new military establishment and the protest movement that is increasingly tilting in favour of Islamist ideology risks dragging a politically destabilised and economically weakened Algeria into a broader regional conflict that would put at risk contracts signed with key investment partners from across the Gulf and Europe.

On 4th of May,Algeria's new military leadership arrested three of the former regime's highest profile leaders, namely Generals Mohamed Mediène and Athmane Tartag, both former heads of the powerful intelligence agency: le Département du renseignement et de la sécurité (DRS) later called the Département de Surveillance et de Sécurité (DSS) as well as Saïd Bouteflika, the brother of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to step down by the military last month.

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Regional partners such as Egypt and the UAE would favour a military-led transition in order to shore up their interests in the Maghreb region. Meanwhile, local sources report that rival regional powers, such as Qatar and Turkey, are seeking a stronger role for Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, the MSP, which would tilt the balance of power in North Africa in their favour. The prominent Islamist protest leader, Seif Islam Benatia has called for a six-month transition period under the leadership of Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, a conservative former minister who is perceived as outside of the Bouteflika elite and who retains close ties to Islamist groups.

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If Islamists gain the upper hand in the political transition, contracts signed with the UAE and perhaps even France could face greater risk of frustration or even cancellation. For DP World this would continue a trend of licence revocations across the region as the geopolitical balance is shaken. In the meantime, the primary fear is that Algeria risks becoming a new theatre of conflict between rival regional powers, like the political stalemate in Tunisia and the military conflict in Libya.

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