Weak opposition discredits Algeria’s electoral process

Most leaders of opposition parties are legitimate offspring of the regime.
Sunday 17/02/2019
A supporter of the Algerian opposition gestures as she is pushed away by police officers in Algiers. (AFP)
In disarray. A supporter of the Algerian opposition gestures as she is pushed away by police officers in Algiers. (AFP)

The picture of Algeria’s presidential elections in April became clear after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ended speculation about his candidacy. The leaders of the so-called opposition parties and people who aspired to the position of head of state have been shocked by Bouteflika’s announcement that he would stand for another presidential term, his fifth.

One Algerian newspaper said Bouteflika’s candidacy was a premature killing of presidential elections. It should be said that the managers of the private newspaper and most so-called opinion pollsters and political actors in Algeria have failed to scientifically analyse the causes behind this pathological clinging to power in Algerian politics. By not doing so, they refuse to acknowledge facts that shaped the structure of Algerian political reality since independence.

There is no doubt that the fundamental problems and the mentality and behaviour of monopolising power in Algeria have not received serious analytical study. Neutral Algerian analysts specialised in national political affairs, opposition parties and their leaders lack training in scientific approaches and thought that would help them deal with the diseases that have plagued Algerian society since the post-independence armed struggle for power and the decade of conflict with Islamists who won the first phase of parliamentarian elections.

The main problem that shakes the fabric of Algerian political reality is the failure to build a pluralistic democratic state in the years of independence. This failure did not come out of nothing but was the result of power struggles and the degeneration of ethics at the highest levels of power, as well as the deepest structure of Algerian society.

The incredible spread of corruption in all administrative and economic state organs and affiliated institutions helps maintain the rot. The result is an increasingly ignorant citizenry, a palpable deterioration of the educational system making it useful only for spawning an unqualified and unemployable labour force and the emergence of a culture of opportunism that has taken over the Algerian administrative, social and economic landscape.

Does Algeria’s problem lie only in the presence of Bouteflika and his clinging to power?

Opposition parties in their fragmented and weak positions cannot be the much-sought alternative, especially given that the shortcoming of the Algerian opposition parties is that they did not produce leading figures who the Algerian people might identify with and follow. Further, the parties did not play a leading role in breaking the mentality and practices of power monopoly and uprooting the cultural foundations of dictatorship.

It should be said that Bouteflika, independent candidate General Ali Ghediri or the candidate of the Movement for the Society of Peace and others are not exceptional cases but the result of this culture of dictatorship.

Political analysts note that the tragedy of the Algerian political reality is mainly that the embryonic genes of the opposition are descended from institutions and culture of the ruling regime in Algeria.

Consequently, most leaders of opposition parties are legitimate offspring of the regime and its political, intellectual, administrative and dictatorial culture. This explains why there has not been a normal and steady growth of democratic ethics in the opposition parties in terms of management or smooth transfer of leadership. Indeed, some party leaders refuse to operate according to the democratic principle of smooth transfer of leadership.

Opposition parties also failed to implement the foundations of the Mazafran Agreements, including the promise to form a single opposition bloc to counter the policies of the ruling regime and its candidate in presidential elections.

The absence of a joint programme for these parties, along with the number of personalities who pop up on election occasions, undermine the formation of any unified political polity. These dispersed parties have produced and reproduced the culture of power monopoly that they accuse Bouteflika and others of following.

This has transformed presidential elections in Algeria into a folkloric show that is neither credible nor trustworthy, two basic requirements for civilised political action.