Algerian president names a new prime minister ahead of elections next year

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Saturday dismissed the country's prime minister and replaced him with the head of his cabinet as the country struggles with inflation and next year's national elections approach.

The state news agency said in a statement Saturday that, after more than two years in office, Aimene Benabderahmne would be replaced with 73-year-old lawyer Mohamed Labaoui, a Tebboune ally who has headed the president's cabinet since March.

Benabderahmne's sacking comes three years into Tebboune's tenure and is the latest upheaval to shape North African politics. In August, Tunisia's president dismissed his prime minister, while the head of Algeria's powerful state-run oil company and eight of his vice presidents were dismissed several weeks ago.

For Tebboune, the changing of the guard takes place at a time of economic anxiety and ahead of next year's presidential elections. In December 2024, Tebboune, 78, will ask voters to give him an another term leading Africa's largest nation by geography — a country with a population of 44 million that spans nearly one million square miles (2.4 million square kilometers) including vast swaths of the Sahara desert rich with oil and gas.

Throughout Tebboune's first term, Algeria has remained heavily reliant on oil and gas to underwrite its budget, while the price of basic goods such as food and medicine has spiked in line with regional and worldwide inflation.

Algeria faced similar inflation challenges to many countries after the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and amid war in Ukraine but has also benefitted as Europe has sought to wean itself off Russian natural gas and looked for additional sources of energy.

Much like the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, the country has experienced street protests over Israel's latest war with Hamas in Gaza. The government has issued some of the region's most supportive statements to the Palestinians, calling “Zionist colonial occupation” the heart of the conflict on the day Hamas militants first attacked Israel. But it has imposed restrictions on some street protests, including those organized by Islamists opposed to the government.

That's the environment in which Tebboune is touring the country ahead of the election, his first since Algeria's popular Hirak movement led the push to remove longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2019. That year, Tebboune ran as a “people's candidate” vowing to fight corruption and revitalize the economy for everyone's benefit, including that of the younger generation that led Hirak's protests.

He emerged victorious in a low-turnout race plagued by boycotts, including from Hirak, which saw him as an ally of the historically powerful military apparatus.

Tebboune initially pledged to make overtures to Hirak leaders and released imprisoned protesters from jail. But his leadership has done little to quell the outrage of the young people who led demonstrations; under his rule, Algeria has continued its crackdown on pro-democracy groups, activists and journalists.

Larbaoui, the incoming prime minister, rose from being an athlete on Algeria's national handball team to a member of the country's diplomatic corps, having served as Algeria's ambassador to Egypt and the United Nations.