Lofty Promises, Not Pragmatism Fueling Algerian Elections

Article Summary
H. Suleiman writes that the electoral campaigns for Algeria’s May 10 elections are filled with empty promises. The parties promote utopian solutions for social and economic problems, promising to build a university and hospital in every town, or to destroy poverty or eliminate unemployment. All that's missing is any real plans to accomplish these goals.

The Algerian political parties, intentionally or otherwise, prefer to address the sentiments of citizens rather than speak to their minds. Lofty promises designed to win votes have so far dominated these parties’ speeches and electoral campaigns. For them, it does not matter if their credibility is lost — such parties seem to be more concerned with deceiving citizens than reaching power.

Populism, rather than pragmatism, has dominated the speeches of party leaders during the campaign for the May 10 general elections. Instead of striving to put an end to the Algerian people’s indecision — especially on the part of the youth — the leaders of the Algerian parties prefer to “hypnotize” them. They propose utopian solutions for social and economic problems, and make empty promises without explaining how they can be achieved. I have heard many parties call for “exempting” citizens who have previously evaded their taxes. This would encourage those who have already done so to further disrespect the law, and would lead to a deficit in the state budget, which is already experiencing difficulty.

I have heard Abdallah Djaballah, head of the Front for Justice and Development party, repeatedly say that his party will eliminate poverty in one year. However, no one, including the government, has real and accurate statistics on the poor in Algeria. Despite this, much has been said about the ''challenge'' raised by Djaballah. He argued that Germany — the fourth largest economy in the world after the US, Japan and China — has 4 million Germans living below the poverty line, and France — the fifth largest global economic power — has 11 million French citizens living under it, adding that these are democratic nations par excellence. In response to the Front for Justice and Development party’s promise, Secretary-General of the National Liberation Front Abdelaziz Belkhadem said that, “if this is true, I will call on the National Liberation Front’s activists to vote for this party.”

Louisa Hanoune, head of the Workers' Party, proposed to double the current number of municipalities, from 1541 to 3000, and the number of states, from 48 to 100. But she did not say how she plans to finance such an expansion. Is it by increasing taxes on citizens? Or is it from the oil revenues, whose prices are determined by the London and New York stock exchanges, and not by developments in the oil-rich town of Hassi Messaoud? The Ministry of the Interior — with its current resources and yearly updated taxes, including the car tax — could not cover the budgets of the current number of municipalities and states, the overwhelming majority of which have suffered a chronic deficit for several years due to a lack of fiscal resources.

I heard the Future Front suggest the provision of unemployment allowances and the promoting of all large municipalities to states, which are additional costs that come at the expense of growth. The growth rate must be at least 7% per year just to maintain the current levels of unemployment in Algeria. However, Algeria has not reached these levels, despite the so-called “large” projects that have been launched. I have also heard the leaders of new emerging parties promise in their speeches the building of a university, hospital and airport in every area. Some promise to create 3 million jobs and a million small and medium enterprises (SMEs), among other guarantees that are just as difficult to believe. I have only heard a small number of parties call for the need to take action, value effort, sanctify work and reject the spirit of dependency. This is what Algeria is missing and the parties are intentionally not bringing up. They believe it is a topic that does not gain votes.

Found in: workers' party, national liberation front, louisa hanoune, future front, future, front for justice and development, algerian general elections, abdelaziz belkhadem, abdallah djaballah

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