Two former prime ministers under ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to resign in April 2019 following months of mass demonstrations against his bid for a fifth term in office, will serve more than ten years in prison after an Algerian appeals court upheld their sentences. The lower court set sentences of fifteen years for Ahmed Ouyahia and twelve for Abdelmalek Sellal. Since the beginning of March, twenty former politicians, businessmen, and senior officials have been judged on appeal in corruption cases. At the heart of the scandal is the Algerian auto industry and gross expenditures for Bouteflika’s aborted fifth presidential term. Official figures show that the auto scandal cost Algeria more than US$1 billion in public funds, whereas Bouteflika’s campaign cost about US$890 million.
Why It Matters
The arrest and sentencing of corrupt officials is a welcome development, one even supported by the Hirak protest movement, which has nonetheless maintained weekly demonstrations against the Algerian government despite the election of a new president in December. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s administration certainly hopes that these court decisions will placate the protesters, though it is a long shot, as Hirak has maintained its position that the entire government must be overhauled, including the removal of all Bouteflika holdovers. As to the corruption probe, some government critics maintain that it is nothing more than an internal power struggle between rival political groups within the government, and not an earnest attempt to improve Algerian governance and accountability.