* Reforms aimed at smoothing political transition - analysts
* Bouteflika, 77, just won fourth term but in poor health
* Algerians favour stability after long civil war in 1990s
By Patrick Markey and Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS, May 16 Algeria's government on Friday
released details of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's
constitutional reform package that includes delegating more
authority to the prime minister and more powers for opposition
parties in parliament.
Bouteflika, who won re-election last month despite ill
health after suffering a stroke a year ago, promised the reforms
to strengthen democracy in a country largely controlled by the
ruling FLN party and the army since independence in 1962.
Most opposition parties have already rejected Bouteflika's
invitation to debate the amendments as an attempt to co-opt them
into a political system they say is unlikely to bring any real
With a question mark still hanging over the 77-year-old
leader's health, analysts said the reforms may also be aimed at
shoring up his allies and guaranteeing a stable transition of
power should Bouteflika be unable to finish his term.
According to a draft of proposals published on Friday by the
government, the president would delegate some executive decree
and regulation powers to the prime minister.
In parliament, parties would be given more rights to
question government officials and to demand responses.
Corruption and press freedoms are also addressed.
"This will reinforce the separation of powers, strengthen
the independence of justice and of parliament and affirm the
role and rights of the opposition," said Ahmed Ouyahia,
Bouteflika's chief of staff charged with overseeing reforms.
Though still divided, the opposition has mostly dismissed
the amendments after boycotting an election they said unfairly
favoured Bouteflika and the FLN. They will hold meetings next
month to decide on their strategy.
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 over its stagnating production.
But the Algerian leader's stroke raised questions about a
potential transition and a revival of a power struggle between
Bouteflika's political allies and the DRS military intelligence
service, which critics say has long played a role in politics.
Since his illness, Bouteflika has moved behind the scenes to
curb the traditional kingmaker position of the DRS by firing key
generals and placing loyalists in other posts, analysts said.
His current prime minister is Abdelmalek Sellal, an ally who
campaigned on Bouteflika's behalf during the election.
"The proposed amendments to the constitution are aimed at
managing the political transition," said Katerina Fytatzi of
global affairs advisory firm Oxford Analytica. "Giving greater
powers to the prime minister reduces the burden on the evidently
Bouteflika commands broad backing in a country still
traumatised by a decade-long war in the 1990s with armed
Islamists that killed more than 200,000 people. Winning a fourth
term underlined his role as a guarantor of stability.
That conflict has left a deep scar on Algerian society,
where many are wary of upheaval and prefer stability over the
idea of radical change despite frustrations over jobs, services
and housing that often spill over into protests.
With around $200 billion in foreign reserves from its energy
sales, Algeria has an ample cushion for spending on subsidies
and loans. These helped to quell discontent over housing and
food prices during the 2011 "Arab Spring" revolts in the region.
But Algeria also needs to attract more foreign investment,
especially in the energy sector where crude and gas production
has been stagnating. New fields need foreign oil operators to
help raise output.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)