There has been considerable media speculation over a likely cabinet reshuffle in the autumn, with even the replacement of Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia being given serious discussion. But in light of the recent and extensive changes in the security forces, the general view is that it is now less likely that there will be many, if any, ministerial changes in the short term. The mishandling of the cholera epidemic could be the one exception.
A full cabinet reshuffle may now be much less likely but there are some indications that there may be a new government on or after 20 September, and that this is when the rumoured appointment of General Ahmed Gaïd Salah as defence minister may be announced. This would be an extraordinary move. Not since President Houari Boumédiène’s (1965-1978) era has the head of the army also been the defence minister.
Meanwhile the media has been keen to offer advice on which cabinet ministers could lose their jobs in the event of an autumnal ministerial reshuffle.
Top of the list is Health Minister Mokhtar Hasbellaoui. Besides his poor handling of the medical interns six-month strike, the last month has seen him at the centre of the cholera epidemic. With more than 70 confirmed cases across five wilayas (provinces) and with two deaths, the outbreak has done enormous damage to Algeria’s international image.
As far as the Presidency is concerned, it is extremely embarrassing for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, should he decide to stand for a fifth term, to have his term in office associated with cholera. Or, should he decide to retire, he would not want his period in office to end on such a humiliating note.
Other ministers are also coming out of the cholera scare badly because the epidemic has highlighted what people from all around the country have been protesting about for years: the unacceptable shortcomings and deficiencies in waste management; the lack of conservation of the living environment; and the control of food products.