Algerian lawmakers OK constitution change before referendum

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s lower house of parliament on Thursday approved a revision of the North African nation’s constitution aimed at building a “new Algeria,” a promise of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune expected to go before the nation in a Nov. 1 referendum.

The 320 lawmakers present voted for the constitutional changes. But 140 others were absent, many of them opposed to the move, notably from parties of the “Democratic Alternative” group.

Opponents, along with the pro-democracy protest movement known as Hirak, want to upend the entire system with a transition government to clean house after two decades of power by then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, forced out by protests last year.

Opponents claim the planned constitutional revision doesn’t go far enough, despite the rhetoric. Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad said during debate that the revision is aimed at creating a “new Algeria, far from the abuses of power and authoritarian excesses” of the past.

The project is meant to re-balance the powers between the president and prime minister, and create an independent electoral authority as well as a constitutional court. It notably contains a disposition authorizing the Algerian Army to intervene outside national territory in the framework of U.N. and African Union missions — a radical rupture with past military doctrine.

The upper house is expected to easily pass the bill in a vote on Sunday.

It would then go before the people in a national referendum on Nov. 1, a symbolic date marking the anniversary of the start of the Algerian revolution, the brutal seven-year war against French colonizers that broke out on Nov. 1, 1954.

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