Algerian Authorities Prevent Opposition Meeting

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Algerian authorities refused to issue a permit for 14 opposition parties to hold a meeting in Algiers, as the debate intensifies over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s plans to extend his own term.

The Algerian authorities have refused to issue a permit [to convene a meeting] to a group of 14 parties that object to the extension of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s term until after the next presidential elections. The group had requested this license to hold a consultative meeting in Algiers on Oct. 1, in a bid to reiterate their rejection of the proposition to amend the constitution. Such amendment would allow the automatic extension of the rule of the republic's president and defer the constitutional amendments until after the next presidential elections, scheduled for April 2014.

A statement issued by the 14 parties — including Islamist, nationalist and secular parties — announced that the state authorities, which follow the Ministry of Interior, have refused to give a license to a “group of parties belonging to the Memory and Sovereignty Defense [the group's name] to hold a meeting at the Safir hotel in Algiers.” The group, which includes the Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP), the largest Islamic party in Algeria, denounced the prevention of a “political seminar that was supposed to tackle the political situation in the country and the amendment of the constitution.”

When the parties learned that they would not be allowed to hold the meeting, they issued a statement that was read by Taher Ben Baabash, secretary-general of the New Dawn Party, in the hotel lobby. The statement read: “The participating parties denounce this arbitrary and bureaucratic measure that stems from the state of emergency mentality and system that still plagues the conduct of the country’s public affairs.”

The canceled meeting was to be attended by the majority of the participating parties' leaders, including MSP head Abderazzak Makri, and the secretary-general of the Islamic Renaissance Movement, Fateh Rabihi.

Ben Baabash said, “The constitutionally guaranteed political practice is currently threatened by the practices of the authorities, which do not hesitate to resort to illegal practices to suppress the other’s voice.”

“We see the authorities canceling a judicial decision in two hours to serve a political party [in reference to the meeting of the Central Committee of the National Liberation Front a couple of days ago], whereas the license [request] was submitted more than six days ago, and the law stipulates that the administration has three days to respond,” he added.

The statement reiterated “the categorical rejection of any constitutional amendment and the non-recognition of an amended constitution before the presidential election.”

These parties’ bloc includes conservative parties such as the New Dawn Party, the Justice Party, Al-Bayan Party, the New Algeria Party and the Progressive Party. It also includes liberal parties such as the Democratic Youth Party, the New Generation Party, the Republican Assembly and the National Liberal Party, along with Islamist parties such as the MSP and the Islamic Renaissance Movement.

According to Makri, “They didn’t allow the seminar to be held, although we respected the legal limit for the submission of the request to the state authorities. The country has become dependent on corrupt political money, which requires uniting the efforts of the political class to confront this danger.”

Bouteflika’s current constitutional and legal term ends next April. A while ago, Bouteflika put forward the option of extending his mandate for another two years, after the amendment of the constitution and the provision of a constitutional clause that would allow such an extension. This intention to extend the president's mandate and cancel the presidential elections has created a front of objection among the opposition parties, along with a civil initiative calling for refusing to amend the constitution. Intellectuals and journalists were invited to stand against this option on Oct. 5, a date that symbolizes the riots that took place in the country a quarter of a century ago.

The Algerian parties received the text of the initiative launched by a group of civil society activists in the form of an appeal to the president and to all the Algerian people to “save the country from disintegration.” This initiative is led by former Minister of Communication and Culture Abdulaziz Rahabi and historian Mohammad Arezki Farad, a former parliamentarian for the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), and Ahmad Azimi, a retired colonel from the Algerian army who is a university lecturer and professor at the University of Algiers.

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Found in: presidential elections, civil society, algeria, abdelaziz bouteflika
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