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Algeria: President Receives Copy of Preliminary Draft on Constitutional Change

Algeria: President Receives Copy of Preliminary Draft on Constitutional Change

Wednesday, 25 March, 2020 - 08:45
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune (REUTERS / Ramzi Boudina)
Algiers - Boualem Goumrassa

Head of the Expert Panel for Drafting Amendment Proposals for the Constitution Ahmed Laraba handed President Abdelmadjid Tebboune a copy of a preliminary draft on constitutional changes, the Algerian Presidency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tebboune expressed appreciation to the constitutional committee’s 17 members for all the efforts they have made in the past two months to meet the people’s demand for a radical change in the constitution, the statement said.

The amendments of several articles will "form the basis for building the new republic after people approve it in its final consensual form.”

The statement didn’t further clarify what it meant by the people’s consent, yet it seems that the amendment proposals reflect the people’s desire for change, democracy and rotation of power, which have been expressed by protesters for the past 13 months.

Demonstrators taking to the streets for the past few months have clearly stressed the people’s rejection of the attempt to amend the constitution.

Protesters say the amendments “will serve the new president’s interests, similar to previous presidents.”

“Given the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the distribution of copies of the constitutional draft proposals to political figures has been postponed until the situation improves,” the statement noted.

When set up, the panel had a mandate to look at all aspects of state organization and reconsider the role of parliament and the judiciary to promote the rights of citizens.

It was given three months to submit proposals for discussion which could then be sent to parliament and finally put to voters in a referendum.

Tebboune was elected in December 2019 to replace Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to step down in April amid massive protests that have persisted since then, demanding a total change of the power structure.

Meanwhile, an Algerian appeals court on Tuesday sentenced the key figure in the country's anti-government protest movement, Karim Tabbou, to a year in prison, a lawyer and a rights group told AFP.

Tabbou, 46, has played a leading role in the mass protests.

On March 11 he was handed six months in prison and an additional six-month suspended sentence for “undermining national unity.”

The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) said at the time he would be released on March 26 for time served since he was detained in September.

But on Tuesday morning, his lawyers were summoned to an unscheduled court hearing.

“The judge didn’t want to listen and withdrew to deliberate,” said defense lawyer Amine Sidhom.

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