Algeria inherits poor political harvest from last year

Algerians are increasingly pessimistic about the country's future and the gloom that engulfed Algeria's entire social fabric.
Thursday 03/01/2019
Youths sit near the Martyrs' Memorial in Algiers, Algeria September 10, 2018. (Reuters)
Youths sit near the Martyrs' Memorial in Algiers, Algeria September 10, 2018. (Reuters)

At the end of each year in developed democratic countries, it is customary for the media to give a roundup of the year’s general, political, economic, cultural and social highlights. Algerian media, however, do not practise this tradition.

So, we will wonder in their stead why Algeria has not found solutions to the accumulated problems in the country, including those of 2018, the potential fifth term in office for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the rising cost of living threatening to cause a popular explosion.

Anyone objectively examining Algeria will quickly conclude that the Algerian government did not achieve in 2018 any qualitative progress towards building a vision for the establishment of a modern state structure with its appropriate cultural, economic, educational, scientific and intellectual foundations.

Except for minor formal reforms in health and housing, the situation in Algeria continues to fester with rising unemployment, deteriorating social organisation and widespread corruption in finances and administration.

A closer examination will reveal the generalisation of political stalemate and the blurring of party pluralism that failed to take any qualitative aspect likely to produce a new generation of competent political leaders who can be entrusted with the heavy tasks of managing the state, modernising its methods and laying solid foundations for its future.

The prevailing impression of 2018, just like that of the years before, is a vicious circle of a complex political crisis, including, in particular, questions caused by the prolonged ill health of the head of state. The result of this situation is growing pessimism among Algerians about the future of their country and the gloom that has engulfed Algeria’s entire social fabric.

There is no doubt that Bouteflika's health and his inability to be present in the field at the level of deep Algeria have had a profound effect on the psyche of the Algerian people.

The prevailing anxiety in Algeria is evident in public behaviour and every aspect of daily life to the extent that it is possible to claim that the main feature of 2018 in Algeria is the aggravation of public concern over the fate of the country and the state, especially that there are no serious attempts to deal with the political vacuum that casts a heavy shadow over the country.

The second major feature of Algerian political life in 2018 is essentially the beginning of the era of economic austerity and its complex consequences on the lives of citizens.

The economic crisis in Algeria is not just a byproduct of the fall of oil prices, as some bootlicking parties would like us to believe. Rather, it is among the most blatant manifestations of the regime’s failure to put install a comprehensive development strategy based on investing in developing qualified human resources and on innovating all sectors of the economy.

To be fair to the government, it is undeniable that the first years of Bouteflika's rule had effectively stopped the bloodshed in Algeria but ending the so-called “bloody decade” was not followed by civilisational projects for Algeria based on modernity while valuing the rich historical heritage that defines Algeria’s national identity.

There was no project for a successful development model for the national economy based on meeting the needs of citizens while remaining competitive regionally and internationally. In short, there was no project for the creation of a new citizen operating within a social system based on trust, respect and partnership for civilisational excellence.

Algeria has not undergone so far a radical shift in the treatment and reforming of physical and symbolic structures that have played a pivotal role in producing material and symbolic violence in Algeria’s political reality. The same diseases, unilateralism and power monopoly, are still present and they are incompatible with the minimal conditions for a modern democratic state.

The obvious achievement of 2018 was the sound defeat of political pluralism in Algeria. Political parties in Algeria have one function -- to provide cover for the autocracy while deepening tribal and regional mentalities and schisms in political practices.