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Mon, 20 Jan 2020 20:49 GMT

Crisis Deepens: Algerians’ Last-Minute Rejection of Presidential Elections


7Dnews London - Ahmed Fathi

Sun, 08 Dec 2019 15:38 GMT

In the midst of a political crisis in Algeria in the run-up to the presidential elections scheduled for December 12th, the ‘Algerian Hirak’, the Arabic word for "movement", continues to reject the elections and the candidates. In light of this, people are beginning to fear for Algeria's "disturbing" future due to calls by the protest movements to boycott the election, which they see as a voting process aimed at reviving the symbols of the former regime. 

For the first time in the history of Algeria, the five candidates for the presidential elections presented their manifestos on Friday December 6th, during an unprecedented television debate, though it did not depart from the narrow framework in which it was held.

Despite this move, large crowds gathered in the streets of the capital, Algiers, on the 42nd consecutive and final Friday before the presidential elections which have been rejected by protesters, showing their refusal to enter the debate.

Although it is an unprecedented and new step for the Algerian people to see so many candidates competing and to get to know more about their presidential proposals, this step is considered to be completely useless by those on the street because they see them as symbols of the defunct regime. All the candidates tried to show themselves close to the ongoing demonstrations, but they failed to impress those out on the streets.

The protesters chanted "I swear I will not vote. On December 8th, I will close my shop," on Friday in response to a call for a general strike for a period of four days beginning on Sunday with the aim of obstructing the holding of the presidential elections.

The latest demonstrations come after the start of the trial of the most prominent figures of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika's regime, notably former prime ministers and a number of ministers and businessmen, in corruption cases, Sky News Arabia reported.

Five candidates are competing in these elections, namely, Azzedine Mihoubi, Acting Secretary-General of the National Democratic Rally Party, Abdelkader Benkreina, the President of the National Building Movement party, Abdelmajid Teboun, the free candidate, Ali Benflis, the former prime minister, and Abdelaziz Belaid, President of the Future Front Party.

The demonstrators rejected the candidates' election campaigns, saying that they believed that these candidates were affiliated to the former regime.

The situation in Algeria is getting worse and with it the pace of the protests that have persisted since February 22nd is intensifying. The protesters succeeded in bringing about the resignation of Bouteflika, who had ruled for more than 20 years, in April.

Since the resignation, demonstrators have refused to hold presidential elections, believing that these elections will bring back symbols of the former regime, which they toppled, and which has dominated government since the country's independence in 1962. Protesters also fear that the army will take control of the country.

In response, the Algerian army has stressed repeatedly that it does not support any candidate in the presidential elections, "The army does not recommend anyone but that the people select the next president through voting,” it said.

The army, the main force within the state, sees the election of a new president as the only way to restore normalcy. But the opposition movement sees the elections as useless if the ruling hierarchy, including the army, continues to exercise its authority, and wants to postpone it until more senior officials step down and the army leaves politics.

Observers agree that the ongoing protests since the overthrow of Bouteflika put pressure on the elites to pursue their commitments to democracy. However, ten months later, the Algerian authorities have not yet taken action, hoping that the protests will fade gradually and that the non-protesters will tire of the demonstrations.

Indeed, recent reports indicate that ongoing protests can be a double-edged sword, potentially pushing non-protesters to feel frustration not only with demonstrations, but with democracy in general.

The demonstrators demand that there be a "real transition" in which none of the former regime's figures and officials participate and that any elections be supervised by an independent executive authority, resulting from an inclusive dialogue with all elements of society.

It would seem that in Algeria, officials are saying one thing and the demonstrators are saying something completely different. On Saturday December 6th, the Algerian presidential election began for residents abroad, and will last for a week. Domestically, there are calls from protesters for Algerians to continue to boycott the election, describing it as futile.

In this regard, hundreds of Algerians gathered in front of the Algerian consulates in France, to express their rejection of the presidential elections in solidarity with the demands of the Algerian people, France 24 reported.

Ongoing calls to boycott the presidential elections highlight Algeria's political future, which could be catastrophic. If the Algerian people do not participate in the upcoming elections, what could be the repercussions? Would the result be a victory for the demonstrators, or not? Will the failure of these elections signal the success of the country's democratic aspirations?

There are some anticipated scenarios for the next stage of the political crisis in Algeria, but the key question is, can the demonstrators intensify pressure in various peaceful and organised forms, and postpone the election a third time? Proposed elections on April 18th and July 4th of this year were cancelled.

Middle East