ALGIERS — President Chadli Bendjedid on Saturday fired Prime Minister Kasdi Merbah and replaced him with a reformer to speed up the transition to multi-party democracy in Algeria.
Bendjedid named Mouloud Hamrouche, 47, as prime minister and urged him to "lead to their conclusion, in a resolute fashion, the economic, political and social reforms."
The appointment of Hamrouche, from Bendjedid's own entourage, dealt a blow to old-guard elements of the ruling National Liberation Front who had resisted Bendjedid's ambitious political and economic reforms, political sources said.
Merbah, appointed a month after youth riots shook Algeria last October, resisted his dismissal, saying it was unconstitutional and required parliamentary approval.
He declined to submit his formal resignation, but a source close to the presidency said there is no real legal question over the issue. The constitution, the source said, clearly lists as one of the president's powers that of naming or dismissing a prime minister.
Seeks to Create Model Democracy
Merbah oversaw the drafting of landmark laws on political parties, press freedom and multi-party elections. They are designed to end the ruling party's 27-year monopoly on political life and create a model Third World democracy.
But the sources said Bendjedid felt that parts of the draft laws were not compatible with the country's new constitution and that they had not been adopted fast enough by the National Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling party.
Public discontent over high inflation, unemployment and shortages of housing and consumer goods, which erupted several times this year into demonstrations, may have also pushed Bendjedid to act.
Merbah said he had been given neither the time nor the support to do his job and defended his government's economic record.
"I took in hand a catastrophic situation, controlled it and improved it," he said.