Algeria’s State: Between Deep State’s Denial and Opposition’s Delusion
Political debate between competing interests does not necessarily have a malign effect on the search for accountability.
By Abdennour Toumi
Last week Algeria’s ruling coalition endorsed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as its candidate in the April, 2019 Presidential election, despite his poor health — however, the 82-year-old incumbent President has not confirmed whether he will run for a fifth-term or not. “The parties of the presidential coalition nominate President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for the upcoming presidential elections,” the four coalition partners said in a statement on Saturday.
The quattro partite alliance de facto have praised their political and economic record as the best in their two decades in power, thus overriding the critics, and showing high confidence in their policies’ continuity. To them, years passed too quickly and there was not enough time to achieve fully the President’s program. For others, including the silent majority opposition led by the al-Mouatana (citizenship) Movement, President Bouteflika has arrived at his retirement moment. It is time for a President the most exposed in social media to hear the many virulent voices raised to stop him from running for a fifth-term and re-election.
Yet the President’s entourage is in a race against the clock, trying in a preemptive destabilization doctrine action against the media, leaving the people to wonder. Up until now, several options had been revealed to the local press: the option to respect the institutional and constitutional scheduler, and let the elections go ahead, followed by a national conference of reconciliation. This seems to be the case for the deep State and the delusional opposition who had showed timid reservation.
Finally, the option of Algeria’s “strong man,” the brother of the President, Si-a-Saïd and his clan, or as Algeria’s Forces Chief & Vice Defense Minister General Gaïd Salah qualified this week, Si-a-Saïd’s friends as his sons! “… here come Saïd’s sons.” (Ham jaou wlad a-Saïd), he whispered into cameras, leaving the funeral ceremony at the passing of General Abdelmalek Guenaïzia.
This unscripted and unwatched fantasy drama series is making Algeria’s political observers and analysts observe carefully the hive of the regime’s key players in power-sharing dynamic conflicts: odd political couples in the Presidential Alliance and opportunist business and Union leaders are subconsciously cheering for a dynasty to keep the throne. On the other hand, the old-Guard and faithful descendants of the regime who feel threatened by the former.
So, find a consensual candidate that will bridge between the President’s brother’s clan and the military factions. It looks like the latter does not want to chock the Algerians nor the International community, they okay the existing state of affairs, waiting for Allah’s will, then act. Hence the candidacy of retired 64-year-old General Ali Ghediri, who is marketing himself as a Nietzschian affirmation, anti-system and man of the future. Although the analysts are still convinced that the ongoing trench war under the seat of the State would end up in a draw — a win-win deal between Zeralda’s clan and Ali Khoja’s Generals’ factions.
A successor to the President emerging from the military and Intelligence services would ensure the stability and the continuity that the RND, the leading ruling party in the presidential coalition, has insisted on as expressed by Chairman and Prime Minister Sid-Ahmed Ouyahia during his press conference with the local media last Saturday.
In a complex world of politics and its ruse, political debate between competing interests does not necessarily have a malign effect on the search for accountability, as long as this debate occurs on the basis of common values and with due readiness to reach compromises within the deep the state and its usual chorus, window boutique opponents, honey-tongued media and elite. As a result, this form of use of the power struggle phenomenon affects directly the voters and with it the entire society.
Thus a dysfunctional Algerian government means voters are turning their back on the political establishment, and politics in every election. Whereas theoretically, the Algerian 2016 Constitution initiated a system based on the ability of the holders of political office to reach compromises. Its strict separation of powers leads to shared responsibilities, in a checks and balances system.
Since 1999, though politicians have shown less and less willing to compromise or alternate; thus increasingly incompetent, successive governments have become a drastically tribalized and regionalized system, with each group unwilling to trust the other. Social media and populist politicians, pros or cons of the regime, encourage this mistrust, which makes Algerians more likely to take statements from their own sources (Taxi driver, barber shop, soccer bleachers, etc…)
It is the absence of an ideology that prevailed in the 70s and the mid-80s of the FLN Party and later shortly with the ex-FIS Party. The nationalist ideology of the FLN aligned with the hard-and-fast interests of their wealthy supporters to produce a political culture, which is fundamentally the backbone of the State, especially in matters of government. While a majority of Algerians are emotional, conservative, and “attentistes,” they wait for solutions from the State, i.e. the lodging and government housing projects.
Grounded in this is paradoxical attitude they criticize the government actions and the regime day-in and day-out.
Algeria, nevertheless, is like any State in Arab countries, whose politics demonstrates full denial from the leaders and politicians, who constantly hide the failures of their public policies and programs. Existing permanently in a state of denial creates a patronizing system that makes a prevailing segment of people’s mindset ready to deny the unpleasant truths about their leaders. Such a strict parenting practice results in an authoritarian political system, which thrives on politics of fear and fury and ensures distrust of any idealistic opposition and elites, creating a confusing sentiment between State and political and economic Power.
Cementing the holy argument of politics is like a Napoleon cake, a layer of people, and they are few in number, who make the events occur, then a layer of a clique that controls these events and observes their achievements, and finally a vast majority that will never know what is actually happening.
However, this large majority is not condemned to endure endlessly the pangs of a self-proclaimed dynasty, who puts its existential interest above the existence of the State’s integrity and its government’s accountability and transparency.
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- France correspondent for The Arab Daily News.
- www.bareed-areej.com Editor-in-Chief
رئيس تحرير مجلة بريد الأريج
- Political consultant at IMPR a Think-Tank based in Ankara, Turkey.
- Member at the European Observatory for Arabic Language Teaching based in Paris, France.
- Affiliated with Sociology of Islam Journal and contributor at Middle East Studies / International Studies, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Center, Portland State University in Portland, OR.
EDUCATION: Diplôme des Études Approfondies (DEA) in Political Science from Toulouse University I, France. Master’s degree in Law from Algiers University, Algeria.
Email im at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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