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Algeria presidential elections heading towards dead end

Students stage a demonstration demanding the departure of all government officials affiliated with former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria on 16 April 2019 [ Farouk Batiche - Anadolu Agency]
Students stage a demonstration demanding the departure of all government officials affiliated with former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria on 16 April 2019 [Farouk Batiche/Anadolu Agency]

Algeria is witnessing what seems to be a state of political blockage due to the authorities’ commitment to organising the presidential elections on 4 July and the rejection of the popular movement and the opposition of any voting under the supervision of symbolic figures of Bouteflika’s regime.

At the same time, experts believe that there are ways out of this impasse, and the statement of the Army Command will be the decisive factor.

Last week, Abdelkader Bensalah, President of the Council of the Nation, called on political actors in the country to conduct a “clever and constructive” dialogue to agree on conditions that would ensure the integrity of the presidential election, according to Anadolu Agency.

READ: Algerian protest leader calls for 6-month transition period

The military institution has insisted, on successive occasions, on a quick way out from the crisis by electing a legitimate president who would fulfil all “the Algerian people’s legitimate demands.”

In contrast, the public and the opposition parties refuse to attend these elections under the supervision of prominent figures of Bouteflika’s regime and amid the lack of mechanisms to ensure their integrity, demanding a transitional period that would be led by consensual figures before the election of the next president.

Progress of the procedures

Bensalah summoned on 9 April the electorate body in anticipation of the upcoming presidential elections by the methods stated in the country’s constitution.

Most of the country’s municipalities ended the process of exceptional review of the electoral lists, while about 40 out of the 1541 towns boycotted the operation, confirming their involvement in the popular movement.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of the Interior announced receiving 68 requests from those wishing to run for the upcoming presidential elections to obtain subscription forms for individual signatures.

The constitutional deadline for the submission of candidacy files at the Constitutional Council is closed on 20 May.

Except for retired Major General Ali Ghediri and the head of the Republican National Alliance Party Belkacem Sahli, the rest of the known political figures refuse to participate in these dues.

On Thursday, Bensalah met Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and stressed on the provision of conditions for the success of the fateful dues, according to Algerian official TV channel (Télévision Algérienne).

READ: Algeria demonstrators call for release of Workers’ Party leader

Insistence and ignorance

Amid the state institutions’ adherence to the constitutional process for the elections scheduled for 4 July, the political opposition class and a large part of the popular movement insist on ignoring Bensalah’s call for dialogue and holding these dues.

The protesters are still insisting on continuing the demonstrations in the street every Friday as an expression of their rejection of elections under Bensalah and Bedoui.

The demonstrators consider that the two figures are remnants of Bouteflika’s regime, and “they cannot be entrusted in the organisation of fair and democratic elections.”

Algerians protest president’s bid for 5th term - Cartoon [Mohammad Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Algerians protest president’s bid for 5th term – Cartoon [Mohammad Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Algerian opposition forces, the Alliance of Forces of Change to Support the Choice of the People, expressed their absolute rejection of dialogue with Bensaleh and Bedoui as they lack popular legitimacy.

Analyst and political activist Muhannad Arzaki Farad indicated that the blockage is due to the intransigence of the military establishment that insists on holding the elections by Article 102 of the Constitution, which will ensure the survival of the old regime.

READ: Algeria to arrest dozens of Bouteflika-era officials

Farad explained to the Anadolu Agency that there is a revolution taking place in Algeria. Thus, the logic of the revolution requires a transitional period, ending the remnants of the previous regime and establishing an independent committee to organise and monitor the elections.

He considered that “organising the elections under the current mechanisms is a form of political suicide”.

Farad pointed out that many initiatives have been put on the table, including a constitutional solution that implies the appointment of a consensual personality at the head of the Constitutional Council to replace Bensaleh who is required at that point to resign.

He added: “Unfortunately, the military establishment is sticking to the current constitutional process”.

READ: After Algeria and Sudan, what’s next for the Middle East?

Former MP of the Socialist Forces Front (left) believed that the solution lies in continuing to hold peaceful popular demonstrations, every Friday, until convincing the leadership of the need to change the current president and prime minister, in addition to establishing the necessary mechanisms to ensure the integrity of the elections.

Rejection of the transitional period

The Algerian army refused to go into a transitional phase outside the “constitutional legitimacy” and considered the move as an adventure that might pave the way for violence and chaos in the country.

The May editorial issue of the military magazine, Al Jaysh, drew sharp criticism of the advocates of the transitional period. It accused unspecified internal parties of exerting pressures on the army to go into a transitional phase that serves private interests to realise the projects and agendas of their godfathers, who are carrying ill intentions to Algeria and its people.

Leader of  National Liberation Front (FNL), headed by Bouteflika, Abdul Wahab bin Zaim, told Anadolu Agency that he does not perceive the debate about the upcoming presidents as a dead end.

Bin Zaim explained to Anadolu Agency that the current institutions of the Algerian Republic are operating under the constitution, according to which Bensaleh was appointed as head of state for 90 days.

He continued: “We are heading to a constitutional electoral process, and the consultation, which we have been invited to hold, concerns the process to form an independent body that ensures the integrity of the elections.

Regarding the absence of well respected political nominees for the upcoming elections, bin Zaim indicated that there are 68 potential candidates. Nonetheless, the Algerian public opinion is still aspiring to new figures noting that he does not trust familiar faces and that the next phase may be a real opportunity for change in Algeria.

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