News / Middle East

Algeria Election Promises More Political Stagnation

FILE - This May, 10, 2012, file photo shows Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika exiting a parliamentary election voting booth in Algiers.
FILE - This May, 10, 2012, file photo shows Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika exiting a parliamentary election voting booth in Algiers.
Mohamed Elshinnawi
When U.S. Secretary State of John Kerry visits Algiers next week, he will find a country torn over a presidential election in which aging incumbent; Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seeking fourth term despite concerns over his health.
 
The president has declared he is fit to govern.  He has also promised reforms if elected and pledged to make the oil and gas-rich nation more democratic by amending the constitution. But both the country’s largest legal Islamist party, the Movement of Society for Peace, and the liberal Rally for Culture and Democracy party have both said they will boycott the April 17 election. 
 
Marina Ottaway, a senior fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington says real political reforms are unlikely any time soon.  
 
“You are dealing with a very old, sick president who is incapable of launching a dynamic process of reform and there is no real competition because Bouteflika has the support of the security services and has good relations with the military, the real holder of power,” Ottaway said.
 
Bouteflika, who will be running for his fourth five-year term, is relying on his prime minister to lead his campaign after a stroke last year left the 77-year-old in a wheelchair and barely able to speak. 
 
While five other candidates are running for the presidency, Bouteflika is the overwhelming favorite and he has the power of the state supporting his campaign.  He gathered four million signatures in support for a fourth term.
 
"With such orchestrated popular support, the April 17 presidential election is almost won in advance," added Ottaway.
 
A safe choice?
 
Bouteflika’s supporters see his re-election as a guarantee for stability. They credit him with leading Algeria out of the civil war in the 1990’s that left an estimated 200-thousand Algerians dead.
 
There have been scattered protests against a fourth term for Bouteflika, but an overwhelming security presence has prevented any mass opposition from developing.  
 
Anwar Haddam, a former member of the Algerian parliament from the banned Islamic Salvation Front, who heads the exile opposition group, the Algerian Movement for Liberty and Social Justice, says despite Bouteflika being an overwhelming favorite, there is room for a political opening in the April 17 vote. 
 
“Unlike what happened in previous elections where the military and security institutions backed the same candidate, this time around one supported Bouteflika and the other supported his major rival; former Prime Minister Ali Benflis.  Benflis opened his campaign also with a promise to create a more democratic state and a new constitution where parliament would have real power with an independent judiciary system,” he said. 
 
However, Haddam says Benflis comes from the same aging elite of the National Liberation Front (FLN) party that has manipulated political life for decades and he lost a previous election to Bouteflika in 2004 by a landslide.
 
The Islamist party, the Movement of Society for Peace, and the liberal Rally for Culture and Democracy party, who are boycotting the election have pledged to hold a conference on Algeria's political transition ahead of the election.
 
Haddam says Algeria is long overdue for a political debate about which way the country is heading.
 
“Algerians from all walks of life agree that there is a need for a real transition to democracy not just another election,” he said.
 
Haddam says despite the apparent political stagnation there are serious on-going discussions between the opposition and elements from the military and security services over how to draft a democratic, inclusive constitution that would define the ultimate role of the military and outline a transition to democracy.

He says the key to reform is the army.  But he says before any reform occurs Algeria’s political leaders will have to define a new role for the military. 
 
“From an opposition point of view, we believe that the real holder of power is the army, so it is natural to envision an important role in supporting a gradual transition toward democracy and that requires a change in the nature of the military-civilian relationship,” he said.
 
Haddam says he believes a key reform would be for the military to be under civilian authority and oversight.    
 
Post-election scenario
 
With analysts saying Bouteflika will be reelected there are several scenarios for post-election Algeria.
 
There is rampant speculation that the ailing Bouteflika would leave power before the end of his five-year term and a vice president will take over. But that scenario would require a constitution amendment to create posts for one or two vice presidents, something that could take time to enact, causing yet more political stagnation. 
 
Marina Ottaway says there is a general feeling in Algeria that real political change will only take place once Bouteflika leaves office, either through incapacitation or death. 
 
“His departure will end an era of legitimacy based on leaders of the Algerian war of independence and the transition to a new generation whose legitimacy is a vision for the future,” she said. 
 
Ottaway says a general resistance to change by Bouteflika’s generation has blocked efforts to revitalize the economy which has largely remained under state-control – something Ottaway warns could spark Arab Spring type protests if reform does not come soon.  
 
“With approximately 70 percent of the population under 30, a high unemployment rate in excess of 20 percent and without real reform to open the political space, Algeria could witness the very popular uprisings that took place in the neighborhood,” said Ottaway.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: el moorish from: mila
March 30, 2014 2:13 PM
Sham election

by: Alger from: ALgeria
March 30, 2014 7:52 AM
Algeria is one of the most beautiful country in the world
http://www.aboutalgeria.com/

by: HKHELIFA from: Algeria
March 29, 2014 10:34 PM
What a big thing this analysis is to update...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs