Algerian ruling party meets to confront internal crisis
Members of Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front meet to confront their biggest internal crisis in a decade, as pressure builds on FLN party chief Abdelaziz Belkhadem to resign.
The party to which President Abdelaziz Bouteflika also belongs, and which holds almost half of the seats in parliament, is riven between supporters of Belkhadem, 67, and high-profile critics who accuse him of nepotism.
The central committee will hold a vote of confidence in him at the start of the three-day meeting, according to a statement received by AFP.
Belkadem's adversaries fear the influential former premier may force the party to re-elect him.
"Belkhadem is playing with his political destiny at this meeting. We fear a repeat of what happened at the last central committee meeting" in June, said former minister Boudjemaa Haichour, one of the leading party rebels.
The party chief, who insisted that he won the central committee's vote of confidence then, was accused of orchestrating an "organic coup," and the two factions nearly came to blows.
Since then, eight ministers, all on the central committee, have called for Belkadem's resignation and accused him of using "state institutions to realise personal ambitions."
On Tuesday, Belkhadem denied outright the existence of a crisis and accused his critics of trying to create ill-feeling between him and Bouteflika.
If there were a crisis, "it must stem from ideas, differences in orientation or management among its members, which absolutely do not exist," he said in an interview with the private Nessma TV channel.
But he said he was being targeted personally.
The call for him to step down comes after another former premier, Ahmed Ouyahia, quit as secretary general of FLN ally the Rally for National Democracy (RND) after coming under pressure from within his party.
The FLN, which was the main organ of the long and bloody struggle for independence from France that Algeria finally won in 1962, has not experienced such a severe crisis since 2003.
At the time, FLN secretary general Ali Benflis emerged as a rival to Bouteflika, who sacked him as premier in a move that split the party and the government.
Under Belkhadem's leadership, the FLN has won back-to-back legislative and local elections, in 2007 and 2012, despite claims of widespread fraud in last year's parliamentary polls.