Algerian Opposition Against Re-Election of Bouteflika

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Abderazzak Makri, an Algerian opposition leader in the Movement for the Society of Peace, speaks to Hameed Yess about why his group does not support President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fourth term.

The vice president of the Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP), Abderazzak Makri, declared the movement’s objection to the candidacy of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fourth term, after it had supported him in three consecutive previous elections. In an interview with El-Khabar, Makri gave his opinion about the unity charter signed between the MSP and the Algerian Front for Change (FC), among other issues.

El-Khabar:  We did not hear your opinion regarding the ongoing efforts toward unity between the MSP and the FC. Rumor has it that you have some reservations in this regard. Is this true?

Makri:  I voiced my opinion to the movement’s members and to the brothers seeking unity. Whoever gave you this information surely wanted to deceive you. I have no reservations regarding unity.

El-Khabar:  Abdel Hamid Madawed, who played the role of mediator to unite the MSP and the FC, said that the attempts to achieve unity are also spreading to Amar Ghoul’s party and the National Building Movement. Don’t you think it is unreasonable for the MSP to be made up of three parties, and then to unite with them?

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Makri:  Why is it unreasonable? I hope this is what happens. We are open to any positive steps. I hope that all parties and organizations that consider themselves Islamic will unite. However, until that happens, we will keep ourselves busy with achievements that benefit our project, country and nation. We trust in God, and we have faith in ourselves and in our capacities and the future of our country and nation. The movement today is at its best. It is undergoing real change that will revive the country.

El-Khabar:  The political scene has witnessed the appearance of a front resisting the candidacy of Bouteflika for a fourth term. Do you think this initiative will be widely supported?

Makri:  I do not know how Bouteflika can be deterred from running for a fourth term. The movement objects to this candidacy because its political stance calls for [pre-]determining the presidential terms. If the constitution is not amended in a way that forbids the renewal of terms and their continuation, nobody can stop Bouteflika from running for another term.

Our country does not allow peaceful protests that can change political paths. On the contrary, if an official wants to run for presidency, he exploits the government’s institutions and manipulates them — either directly or indirectly — to show him their support. However, the officials in Algeria do not lack support, and this is not what they are ashamed of. In fact, what is missing is their inability to control themselves and their surroundings to put an end to corruption. They also lack the ingenuity, imagination and cleverness to achieve development and free themselves from dependence on petrol and gas. Moreover, they are unable to use the fuel resources, which are notoriously being looted, in order to invest in building economic, industrial, agricultural and service-oriented institutions and to achieve added value outside the scope of fossil-fuel benefits. Thus, in the eyes of many citizens, the Algerian officials are corrupt failures who do not have the power to achieve anything.  

This growing feeling that citizens have cannot be changed with the current politics. How can someone ask to assume more responsibilities after having ruled for three terms already? If [Bouteflika] had actually effected positive change, then he would have fulfilled his duty with tireless efforts to get there. He needs to go back to his personal life and benefit his country through his experience in consultations, forums and conferences, as is the case in developed countries. If he failed [to do anything useful] during three terms, where is he headed with this fourth one? Why should Algerians have to be this patient? Why should they have to continue to support failure? Isn’t the aim of democracy to negotiate over power to choose the best candidate?

Despite all this, I can say that the problem in our country lies in the political system, which cannot achieve success. Bouteflika’s successor, whoever he might be, in the coming parliamentary elections or the ones after, will achieve the same results. If the situation persists in the absence of reforms, strict supervision and accountability mechanisms, nothing will change.

El-Khabar:  Do you think that these presidential elections will be closed, giving the regime’s candidate the upper hand as usual?

Makri:  The only important elections in Algeria are the presidential ones. Competition over the presidency has nothing to do with parties. Rather, it all takes place at the top of the power pyramid.

Usually the government’s candidate is chosen following a consensus between decision makers in the military and presidential institutions. Moreover, a new party was added to the political equation — civilian stakeholders who do not have political duties and who are distributed between the presidential and military institutions. The role of parties is secondary. Some parties play the role of “carrier” for the government’s candidate, while others act as “catalysts” or “rabbits,” in political jargon. Naturally, the result is predetermined in favor of the government’s candidate.

In this framework, the ruling party prefers the presidential system and is opposed to a parliamentary system. Even since the country’s independence, Algerian lawmakers have sought shortcuts, and have preferred to deal with one person who governs all the governmental institutions. This way, the local and legislative elections serve the presidential ones. Consequently, the participants in the lower political process take the crumbs, while the higher officials in the closed circle receive the biggest share.

Even if a conflict arises between those at the top of the presidential power pyramid — in order to gain control over funds and interests, and to take hold of trade and economic organizations — this happens within a manageable, closed circle that goes unnoticed by the ordinary citizen. The secret conflict might persist at times, and dangerous methods might be used to determine its outcome. However, at the end of the day, one party prevails or an understanding is reached. I do not think that the 2014 elections will be any different. Whether Bouteflika is the candidate or not, the result will be in favor of the government’s candidate, as you just stated in your question.

El-Khabar:  Do you think Bouteflika will be the regime’s candidate?

Marki:  There are many developments and indications that point to his candidacy. Those close to Bouteflika are eager to see him nominated, since they have yet to find a substitute that could protect their interests. These associates of his would need more time to control the government without a president.

The situation in Algeria now is somewhat similar to [former Egyptian president] Hosni Mubarak’s rule before his fall. However, things are a bit different here since there are strong groups that have other interests and have the means and power. Moreover, there are decent citizens in the government’s institutions, and they know the level of corruption and the danger it poses to the country. They are resisting as much as possible, but the final say in the matter has not been determined yet.

Unfortunately, poor Algeria is locked in this secret conflict over power and benefits, and it cannot find a way to establish a political body that allows for competition over programs, the emergence of brainpower and the appearance of competences and national ambitions that are capable of achieving change, reform and development. We are afraid that we will have to endure a period during which oil benefits will decline and all corrupt rulers will flee with their looted money. Algeria and Algerians would then enter into endless turmoil.

El-Khabar:  You have the greatest chance of succeeding Bouguerra Soltani [as leader of the MSP]. What do you make of this?

Makri:  The door for candidacy is still closed. At the end of last week, we held the last meeting with the national executive bureau and the conference’s preparation committee. The topic of discussion during the meeting was the final preparation of documents in light of the extensive basic and specialized discussions. Throughout the talks, we did not tackle the candidacies, neither in official or unofficial sessions. All the developmental political ideas that we have prepared in a calm, sincere and focused environment will be submitted to the National Shura Council on April 12. After approving them, they will be presented to the conference, during which the nominations will take place, on May 1-4.

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Found in: bouteflika, algerian politics, algerian elections, algeria, abdelaziz bouteflika
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