Opposition boycotts elections

There is no certainty over how things will pan out politically right now. In recent days, an increasing number of opposition parties have announced plans to boycott the presidential poll.

President Bouteflika votes in the 2017 parliamentary elections (photo: Reuters/Z. Bensemra)
Confined to a wheelchair since a stroke six years ago, Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been in office for almost 20 years. He has largely disappeared from the public eye. Recently Bouteflika had a letter read out on state television in which he announced that he was no longer aiming for a full term in office. If he is confirmed in office during the election, a "national conference" should set a date for an early election at which he will no longer stand. The president did not mention a timeframe. New elections would be scheduled within a year, the television station Ennahar quoted Bouteflika's campaign manager as saying

While the two Kabylei-based left-liberal parties – the Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Democratie (RCD) and the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS) – made it clear weeks ago that they have no intention of taking part in an electoral farce of this kind, the Trotskyist Parti des Travailleurs (PT) led by Louisa Hanoune also announced its plans to boycott the poll at the weekend.

Several potential presidential candidates such as Bouteflika's former prime minister Ali Benflis, head of the conservative and moderate Islamist Mouvement de la Societe pour la Paix (MSP), Abderrazak Makri, as well as Abdelaziz Belaid have already withdrawn their candidacies.

This makes it seem all the more likely that the election will be postponed. No decision has been taken as yet. But in the face of the continuing mass mobilisation on the streets of the country, the presidential election can hardly be viewed as a practicable political solution. Even the ruling elites must be gradually coming to this realisation, even if Bouteflika's clan continues to cling to the forthcoming vote.

For Meriem Saidani, a senior member of the liberal opposition party Jil Jadid (New Generation), in all of this one thing is clear: "there can be no fifth mandate." In the meantime, at a debate organised by the youth association RAJ in downtown Algiers on 2 March, the head of Jil Jadid, Soufiane Djilali said the street must maintain its presence; the pressure must be kept up and hold its own against upcoming developments.

"When Algerians tore down a portrait of Bouteflika from a building in the heart of Algiers on 22 February, it symbolised the end of the regime," he tells Qantara.de. According to Djilali, the regime is already beating a retreat. However it's unclear whether this will happen quickly, or whether it will last several weeks. Now it's down to the opposition to set up "incontestable democratic mechanisms", he adds.

Sofian Philip Naceur

© Qantara.de 2019

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

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