Algiers - Algeria's new prime minister - Abdelmalek Sellal - took office on Tuesday promising to push ahead with reforms, four months after parliamentary polls, and ahead of the formation of a new cabinet likely to exclude Islamists.
Appointed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday, Sellal, 64, replaces Ahmed Ouyahia, who had held the post since 2008.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Sellal said on Monday, cited by the official APS news agency.
“Our main objective is to carry on applying the (reform) programme of the president,” he added, mentioning in particular local elections due at the end of November and a planned revision of the constitution.
He also highlighted the need for the next government to breathe new life into the economy of the energy-rich country, which he said contains “important means for coping with the challenges created by the international economic changes”.
The delay in forming a new government, which should have been announced in May after the parliamentary election that saw Bouteflika's FLN party win 208 of the 462 seats in parliament and tighten its grip on power, has paralysed Algerian politics.
A three-party alliance of Islamist parties, which fared much worse in the polls than had been expected, given the success of Islamists in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, claimed widespread fraud, after winning just 49 seats.
The new prime minister, who does not belong to any political party, is a technocrat with extensive political experience who is considered close to the president.
He has held a number of cabinet posts, most recently as minister of water resources in the outgoing government, and was closely involved in the presidential election campaigns in 2004 and 2009 that returned Bouteflika to power.
“Sellal's nomination doesn't come as a surprise, because he is someone well-known for his competence,” FLN spokesperson Kassa Aissi told reporters.
Nevertheless, the FLN's sweeping victory in the polls militated in favour of the party's secretary general Abdelaziz Belkhadem, who has already served as prime minister, between 2006 and 2008, political sources said.
According to Algerian media, the president will dismiss those ministers who have held their positions the longest, starting with Education Minister Boubekeur Benbouzid, appointed 19 years ago.
Since 2004, Algeria's government has been dominated by the presidential alliance consisting of the FLN (National Liberation Front), Ouyahia's National Rally for Democracy (RND) and the Islamist Movement of Society for Peace (MSP).
The MSP, which quit the coalition to join the Islamist alliance, has said it will not participate in the new government “even if asked by President Bouteflika himself”, after it blamed fraud for its disappointing performance in the election.
The governing coalition and many Algerians argue that the country has already experienced the consequences of Islamism during the deadly 1991-2002 civil war and that the dynamics of the Arab Spring cannot apply in Algeria. - Sapa-AFP