William Lawrence: “In Algeria, the bunker state is hardening”

The cross : How to explain this repression?

William Lawrence : Some of the military forces, including some in high places, were in favor of Hirak. Subsequently, it was seen as a threat. However, Algeria is a bunker state which protects itself rather than governs. The more threatened he feels, the more he becomes bunkerized. He represses. He recently banned the Hirak marches, except in Kabylia. As always, he instrumentalizes Kabylia to divide, to convey the idea that the Kabyles are not reliable compatriots.

Among the governing group, heads change regularly. Some are accused of corruption, go to jail, and then get back on their feet. Isolated people emerge from the shadows. Others like former intelligence chiefs Tewfik and Tartag remain powerful even if they are retired. The factions are moving.

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The opaque military oligarchy has selected Abdelmadjid Tebboune to be the civilian face of power. The president was almost dismissed last winter when he was hospitalized for several months in Germany. But he understood the game well enough to survive. Ultimately everything is calculated according to the protection of the regime and the system.

Why organize these early legislative elections?

W. L. : We know that participation will be very low. It was, officially, only 23% in the constitutional referendum of 2020, 40% in the presidential election of 2019 and 35% in the legislative elections of 2017. This is again without counting the weight of the protest vote, through invalid votes, respectively 11%, 13% and 21%.

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Despite everything, with this new election, the authorities are continuing their roadmap. They want to take advantage of a minimum of legality and legitimacy, which they can display abroad. Even if no one is fooled.

They are betting in particular on new faces in parliament. More than 12,000 of the 23,000 candidates are on “independent” lists. They are in fact all pro-regime, as are those of the presidential alliance, FLN and RND (National Democratic Rally) and the Islamists of the Society for Peace Movement (MSP).

In reality, these new independent candidates are applying for a job. They want to taste the cake, take advantage of the distribution of state property. Fragmented, disorganized, devoid of any program, they will not constitute a new political force.

The refusal of parties and politics is massive in the population …

W. L. : Decades of weakening of parties and civil society have left as only dynamic a confrontation between the street and the government. More than 10,000 micromanifestations are held per year in the country.

The regime’s only concessions are granted in this relationship to the street, whether it be housing allocations or socio-professional demands. It is this same relationship between the street and power that is at work with the Hirak.

What future for the Hirak?

W. L. : He is not dead. He will be back. But the one-off strategy is bound to fail. The societal tendencies present in the movement coordinate on tactics, but fail to develop a platform for a democratic transition. The only point of agreement comes down to calling for “change of the system”.

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The Hirak is neither an uprising, nor even an attempted uprising. In this revolution without revolutionaries, there are more candidates for the elections than Algerians who want to take power …

No one knows if the Sudanese transition will be able to succeed. Even if they negotiated badly, the Sudanese negotiated with the military. The Algerians did not get their hands dirty, but they did not succeed, without even trying. The regime will not let go. He has a bright future ahead of him.

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