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FACTBOX-The main players in Algeria's political upheaval

17 Sep 2020 / 16:01 H.

    Sept 17 (Reuters) - Algeria will hold a referendum on Nov. 1 on changes to the constitution that President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hopes will turn the page on last year's political unrest, but which the opposition seeks to boycott.

    These are some of the main players.

    PRESIDENT TEBBOUNE

    Since his election in December, in a vote boycotted by the opposition protest movement, Tebboune has tried to move on from the demonstrations and focus on Algeria's looming economic problems.

    A former prime minister who was sacked in 2017 after trying to take on business figures accused of corruption, he is seen by many of the protesters as a cipher for the old ruling elite.

    He has painted the protests as a moment of national renewal that achieved their end of combating corruption and ousting his predecessor, president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and presents the new constitution as a way to formalise their successes.

    THE OPPOSITION

    The protest movement emerged in February 2019 as hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated when it became clear Bouteflika would seek a fifth term.

    Known as the Hirak - Arabic for 'movement' - the protesters have no formal leadership and organise themselves through discussions on social media.

    They demand that the old guard give up power, an end to corruption, and that the military quit politics. They rejected the election won by Tebboune and see the referendum on the constitution as a tactic to sideline their movement.

    THE ARMY

    The military has long been at the centre of the Algerian state and used last year's mass protests to purge rival factions including the once all-powerful internal security department.

    However, its chief of staff, lieutenant general Ahmed Gaed Salah, who became the main power broker during the unrest and a figure of hate for many protesters, died suddenly in December of a heart attack.

    Tebboune replaced him with General Said Chengriha, the head of the land forces, but the new army chief has not played as open a role as his predecessor.

    THE OUSTED OLD GUARD

    Bouteflika, also a veteran of Algeria's war of independence, helped end the 1990s conflict between the state and Islamist militants and was made president in 1999.

    After he was pushed from power in April 2019, his brother and de facto regent Said Bouteflika was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiring against the army.

    Their main rival in the power structure, internal security chief Mohamed Mediene, was jailed alongside him.

    While many other Bouteflika allies are also on trial or in prison, some of his network remained embedded in the government.

    (Compiled by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

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