When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Algeria

Algeria's Presidential Campaign Heats Up Online

Bouteflika's official Facebook page
Bouteflika's official Facebook page
Isabelle Mandraud

ALGIERS – Shaken by the strength of bloggers and Internet users opposed to a fourth term for outgoing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the head of state’s campaign team didn’t wait long before equipping themselves with their own virtual communication tools.

The unprecedented online confrontation has put the Bouteflika’s supporters on the defensive. His team opened Facebook and Twitter accounts in the name of the president, created a YouTube channel to host videos of his campaign, and developed a web radio station to counter views on programs such as “Café presse présidentielle,” a talk show that brings journalists from several Algerian news sources together.

For weeks, they have been critically commenting about the April 17 presidential election from the kitchen of the facilities that host the “Maghreb Emergent” website. Meanwhile, Bouteflika’s web radio station is broadcasting slogans, songs and testimonies of supporters in a continuous, around-the-clock loop. The battle is raging.

Through social networks, the campaign has become more than just national. It is also reaching beyond borders, in part because Algerian authorities have made visas harder to obtain for foreign journalists.

Young people from parties close to Bouteflika have to resort to social media because it is the only way to keep alive the campaign of a candidate who is ubiquitous in pictures but otherwise absent from the public scene.

Silent thematic clips defending the record of the president, who has been in power since 1999, have been posted with text in French. “Water for all,” one of these short videos proclaims. “Drinkable water in Algeria has increased from 123 liters per day and per person in 2000 to 178 liters in 2014,” it says. Another video notes that “between 2000 and 2013, the total length of the national road network has increased from 104,324 to 118,734 kilometers.”

The video clip of a song performed by some 60 artists — a sort of Algerian “We Are The World” — including singer Cheb Khaled and humorist Smaïn, has traveled a chaotic path. It was uploaded March 30, then removed after a wave of hostile reactions, but has since reappeared online again. Internet users lashed out at the artists that they bluntly called “shameless,” leading some of those involved to provide embarrassed explanations in the press.

Although President Bouteflika’s name is not mentioned, the lyrics are unambiguous: “Let me sing … / Let me be proud of my president who took an oath and held the promise of millions of martyrs.” At the very end of the clip, a portrait of the president appears.

This was a reply to other artists on social networks, especially rappers, who have been vocal against the president’s re-election. The attacks are prolific and the comments scathing.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Russia Is Suddenly Deploying Air Defense Systems On Moscow Rooftops

Russia is increasingly concerned about security from the sky: air defense systems have been installed on rooftops in Moscow's government quarter. Systems have also appeared in several other places in Russia, including near Vladimir Putin's lakeside home in Valdai. What is the Kremlin really worried about?

photo of ice on the river in Moscow

Clear skies, cold reality along the Moskva River

Anna Akage

-Analysis-

The Russian Defense Ministry has refused to comment. State Duma parliamentary officials say it’s a fake. Still, a series of verified photographs have circulated in recent days of an array of long-range C-400 and short-range air defense systems installed on three complexes in Moscow near the Kremlin, as well as on locations in the outskirts of the capital and in the northwest village of Valdai, where Vladimir Putin has a lakeside residence.

Some experts believe the air defense installations in Moscow were an immediate response to recent Ukrainian statements about a new fleet of military drones: The Ukroboronprom defense contracter said this month that it completed a series of successful tests of a new strike drone with a range of over 1,000 kilometers. Analyst Michael Naki suggests that Moscow’s anti-air defense systems were an immediate reaction to the fact that the drones can theoretically hit Kremlin.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Yet the air defense installations in Valdai seem to have been in place since late December, following Ukrainian drone attacks on a military airfield deep inside Russia’s Sorotov region, 730 kilometers (454 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Others pose a very different rationale to explain Russia’s beefing up anti-air defenses on its own territory. Russian military analyst Yan Matveev argues that Putin demanded the deployment of such local systems not as defense against long-range Ukrainian drones, but rather for fear of sabotage from inside Russia.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest