ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has approved a long-awaited constitutional reform package, state media reported, part of measures he pledged after taking office for a fourth term last year.
The draft constititional revision, approved at a “restricted” cabinet meeting late on Monday, will be submitted for final approval next month to parliament, where Bouteflika’s allies have an overwhelmimg majority.
Bouteflika, who had a stroke in 2013 and has not been seen in public since the election, promised reforms to strengthen democracy in Algeria, which has been controlled largely by the FLN party and the military since it won independence in 1962.
When the proposals were discussed last year, they included delegating more executive authority to the prime minister and more powers for opposition parties in parliament, as well as reforms for the press and to counter corruption.
In a statement to official news agency APS, the presidency provided few details of the proposed constitutional reform, but said a full draft would be made available in January.
The proposed amendments will allow the “deepening of the separation of powers,” the statement said. Analysts have said the reforms may also be aimed at helping a stable transition should Bouteflika step down during his fourth term.
Since his re-election, the Algerian president has appeared only briefly in state television images and photographs, either meeting his cabinet or visiting foreign dignitaries.
But analysts say Bouteflika, 78, has over the last year shored up his position by sacking several generals and the head of the military intelligence service as a way to curb the influence of the armed forces in politics.
Observers say civilian and military factions among Algeria’s ruling powers have been engaged in backroom struggles for influence since the the war of independence from France.
The army gained more influence during a 1990s conflict with Islamist militants, but analysts say Bouteflika has sought to ease the generals out of politics.
Under Bouteflika, the North African OPEC oil producer has become an ally in the Western campaign against Islamist militancy in the Maghreb. Algeria is also a key supplier of gas to Europe, despite concerns about its stagnating oil and gas production in the last few years.
Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Patrick Markey and Catherine Evans