The Algerian presidential elections: The burlesque, the tragicomic and the farcical

Published on Pambazuka News, by Hamza Hamouchene, April 3, 2014.

In the run up to Algeria’s presidential elections on 17 April, a tragic comedy unfolds in which presidential candidates contest against a rigid regime with false stability. The outcome of the election is predetermined; and the people will lose, no matter which candidate wins.

Algeria’s next presidential elections will be held on 17 April 2014 and for the last few months; this important electoral rendezvous showed all the hallmarks of a masquerade, consistent with almost all the elections in the history of the Algerian state since independence in 1962.  

Elections in Algeria are not particularly known to be free, fair or transparent. They are often rigged, biased and outcomes are usually decided before the voting has begun, by the different factions of the regime and the associated interests groups … //


But beyond the candidates, their qualities and flaws, democracy cannot be reduced to elections, especially when these happen in a despotic framework and when these are used to legitimise the system in place and offer a “democratic” façade for authoritarian practices and the pillaging of the oil rent. This electoral masquerade is another proof that the Algerian regime refuses to democratise despite the upheavals of the Arab uprisings and the lessons that must be learnt from the Western interventions in countries like Libya and Iraq: denying your own people freedom and the right to self-determination will only make you vulnerable to imperialist designs.

People that legitimately challenge this state of affairs are often dubbed agent provocateurs who are seeking to destabilise the country for the benefit of foreign powers. For instance, the former prime minister, the infamous Abdelmalek Sellal, who resigned a few days ago in order to head Bouteflika’s campaign, described the people who are opposed to the fourth term as agitators and deserve a worse treatment than the terrorists that attacked the In Amenas gas plant in January 2013. The false stability that this regime is championing is not sustainable in the long run as the social peace is bought with an oil rent that is susceptible to the cyclical changes of market prices and also because the people’s patience will run out one day.

Whoever wins Algeria’s next presidential elections: democracy surely won’t be a winner and in the absence of a viable alternative that could mobilise the masses around a liberating societal project, boycotting the elections is an honourable political choice to make.

(full text).

(Hamza Hamouchene is an Algerian writer, activist and co-founder of Algeria Solidarity Campaign ASC. Follow Hamza on Twitter: This article was first published in March 2014 by The Huffington Post).


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