Algeria: election date slipping

Summary: mass protests against the “pouvoir” continue. More action against corruption. Presidential election due on 4 July will be delayed.

“I shall dream” – source Facebook/ Souad Douibi

Since our posting of 6 May mainly peaceful demonstrations have continued in Algeria, very large although slightly below previous numbers perhaps because of Ramadan. Protesters demand the resignation of the interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, who was given 90 days to oversee the presidential election due on 4 July. One banner at a demonstration in Algiers on 10 May, the 12th successive Friday and the first in Ramadan, read “They all go”. On 14 May 9 people were reportedly wounded in a clash with police in Timimoun, an oasis town in south/central Algeria.

On 17 May, the following Friday, Reuters reported that the election was likely to be postponed, as calls continued for the resignation of  Bensalah and the interim Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, for a transitional period to prepare for elections, and for impartial dialogue between the military leadership and the “hirak” (protest movement). On 20 May the army chief Ahmed Gaed Salah said elections were the best way to end the crisis and called for more speed in preparing them, without mentioning a date. By 24 May, the 14th Friday, protesters were demanding the resignation of officials in charge of supervising the vote, chanting “No to the 4 July election“. Others were accusing Salah of thwarting the revolution and calling on him to resign.

Yesterday 26 May a prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to investigate for corruption two former prime ministers, Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, and eight former ministers, most of them members of the Cabinet just before Bouteflika resigned on 2 April. Numerous other investigations of corruption have been launched.

Also on 26 May the opposition party Socialist Forces Front (FFS) which had previously said it would boycott the election said that the cancellation of the election which was now probable was a major achievement for the people and an unprecedented opportunity for the future of the country.

26 May was the deadline for registration of candidates for the 4 July election. A few hours after it had been reported that there were no candidates the Constitutional Council announced that two candidates had registered. Both are reportedly unknown figures.

Postponement of the election now seems almost certain. An Al Monitor article reports that most protesters would welcome that, but points to the risks from the protesters’ viewpoint: it gives the “pouvoir” time to regroup, and prolongs the economic paralysis gripping the country. “Any delay in the election, however, risks testing Algeria’s protest movement in a way that it has hitherto not experienced.”

In an article on the Middle East online website Francis Ghilès argues that the arrests of “big fish” close to Bouteflika have not satisfied the protesters, and Salah’s credibility is eroding fast, for example because of the case of the human rights activist Hadj Ghermoul, arrested for carrying an anti-Bouteflika banner before the protests began, who remains in prison.

Quoting former Prime Minister Mouloud Hamrouche whom he describes as one of Algeria’s most respected senior statesmen, he says that what is needed is a dialogue leading to the hard task of building institutions which have been “emptied” by Bouteflika. It seems increasingly unlikely that the election will take place on 4 July; what is needed is dialogue leading to a referendum to ratify an amended constitution.

Emphasising the importance of the army, which “sees its second duty as ensuring the integrity of the state” Ghilès concludes that “Algerians will watch with trepidation as the Night of Forgiveness, which precedes the end of Ramadan, approaches. Maybe senior officers could choose that special date to agree to a serious plan to move forward.”

This is a sample Arab Digest newsletter.

To start receiving complete daily newsletters, click on the link below for your Free 30-day Trial or Join Arab Digest now to receive full membership benefits.

Join TodayBack to Sample NewslettersFree 30-day Trial