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Algerian politics in crisis and a national tragedy

Whatever the readings, descriptions, analyses or interpretations of the events in Algeria may be, and whatever motives, tests of will, conflicts, interest or privileges are, in the end the reality of the situation is a political system in crisis and a tragedy for the nation. The Algerian political system (by which I mean the decision-making process) does not possess mechanisms and institutions that are designed to abide by a specific set of rules, ensure transparency and provide for a smooth transition of power.

The government has reached the peak of its internal crisis and struggles as the impending presidential election draws near. The predicament facing the government begs the following question: who is governing? If we are to look at the following crisis within the realm of political science and social policy, the questions then become: what happens after the presidential election and how can we begin to look at the state in terms of how affairs are conducted and proper governance? How can we begin to look at the state seriously and implement projects that bring about affective changes in all state and social institutions?

Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a state crisis, even if we don't realise it, and an apparent governmental crisis. The Malian issue (and the south Saharan question in general) was taken from the Ministry of the Exterior's hands. At a time when the government in Algiers was shaking from the political changes in Tunisia and Libya, it failed to make direct and concrete changes in its foreign diplomacy despite the fact that its neighbours represented two examples that could affect and impact on questions of regional security. Despite attempts to challenge the current government through the courts, the governing family will try to reach a settlement or compromise. The golden question at this time is: who is governing? Being in government in Algeria means two things: absolute power and unlimited wealth.

If the conflict does not spiral out of control then it will lead to a number of radical governmental changes or deep-rooted social implications. France will use its soft power and direct influence to contain this conflict to a certain extent because it will not allow Algeria to go out of control, or go down the same road as Tunisia.

After the government settles the question of who governs and holds the presidential election it will undoubtedly be the winner; however, the question that remains is how the government will succeed in running a country the size and significance of Algeria. And how will the government do this while dealing with a regional and social backdrop that is being affected by a number of serious transformations and new ideas? Is the ministry of the interior ready to take on the challenges and consequences that will surely ensue after the presidential election?

The difficulty in finding the answers is due to two main internal problems which require a degree of professionalism, time and wisdom to solve. The first is related to how we think about governance, which lacks scientific breadth and flexibility. The government does not have the ability to see things realistically. The reason behind the lack of flexibility is due to a lack of institutions and officials capable of taking the initiative to tackle and solve problems.

The second obstacle, which is faced equally by the regime and the opposition can be summarised thus: taking any political action has been separated completely from effective political institutions. As a result, political parties, the intellectual elite, unions and the community are unable to penetrate the now impossibly marginalised decision-making process. Nearly all political parties lack the understanding of how to engage in serious and effective opposition. Furthermore, the parliament is now characterised by personal relationships and financial privileges and lacks any ability to implement concrete changes.

These factors explain why we often witness violent conflicts over issues of political parties and their electoral lists, which are usually solved on the basis of tribal loyalty, money or kinship.

There is no true opposition to these political parties and it is for this reason that the regime has so much power. In this way the Algerian government has been able to prolong its rule and ability to govern based on ways that would ensure its own continuity and stability. As such, the parliament functions as a mere accessory to the executive government and nothing more.

Economically-speaking, the country faces financial corruption across the spectrum of society. Senior officials, politicians, traders, businessmen and administrators have all created a republic of corruption at the heart of the republic. In fact, newspapers publish the details of dozens of cases of financial corruption every day. This situation has led to the catastrophic failure of all development projects that have been organised by the executive branch. In order to cover up the depths of the corruption, the government has resorted to bribing citizens and trade unions in an attempt to buy peace and stability and avoid protests.

As the state failed to implement its development projects this led to the marginalisation of the decision-making process, which is now only accessible to a fraction of the political elite. Corruption has created a new layer of wealthy people and they are a group who work in a number of illegal and illegitimate projects. In fact, this new elite does not truly concern itself with politics or political issues nor does it truly recognise the importance of the parliament. It is only concerned with questions relating to public wealth.

Socially speaking, the regime has dismantled notions of a collective society. The numerous crises in Algeria have disrupted social relationships and led to the creation of limited interpretations of identity. Due to increasing drug usage and lack of social stability, Algerian society has lost its trust in the political system. The situation has digressed to the point where security forces have had to intervene to break up disputes.

All of these main factors coupled with other issues such as unemployment, financial corruption and other crimes have completely exhausted the government's ability to do anything to address the situation. These deep-rooted problems place the state in a true state of crisis that is difficult to interpret and so it is difficult to determine when it will end. The regime is exhausted and will not be able to continue much longer due to it's moral bankruptcy.

So what will happen after the presidential election? What will happen as the regime is in transition from thinking about authority to thinking about the state; from a centralised government to a government with effective institutions. It is suffering from a crisis due it's lack of transparency and the inability of the people to practise their free will on selecting who governs them.

The reality is also confirmed by considering that there is a lack of an educated and respectable elite possessing sufficient political experience that will afford its members the chance to propose projects, initiatives, solutions and opinions on how to solve problems. There is also a lack of organised and certified political parties with deep-rooted popular connections to society.

Coupled with this is the lack of trust between the people and authority on one hand and the people, the elite and political parties on the other. There is also a lack of true social movements able to make changes within society and place pressure on the authorities. The people are unable to contribute to and play a larger role in state issues.

The three branches of government (the executive, legislative and judicial) are not kept distinct by strong institutions established by the constitution, nor is there true representation established by an elected parliament.

The deep-rooted and often serious political transformations occurring regionally in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are not being taken into consideration by the Algerian government as they plan for the continuation and stability of the current ruling system. However, at the end of the day, it is up to the people to decide what to do.

The Algerian government's crisis is actually a reflection of the national tragedy and the story of a people without a political will. The regime takes its authority regardless of what the people want even though the constitution states clearly that the people's will is the government's source of authority. The regime must stop imposing itself and its corruption at the expense of the people.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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