When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Algeria

After Arab Spring, Is Algeria Next In Line For An Islamist Election Victory?

Two decades after its own civil war, Algeria was relatively calm as the revolutions of the past year rolled across most of its North Africa neighbors. But with legislative elections slated this spring, both pro-democracy and pro-Islamist parties are deman

Ghardaïa Street in Algiers (Daggett2008)
Ghardaïa Street in Algiers (Daggett2008)
Isabelle Mandraud

ALGIERS - In successive waves, messages have appeared in both French and Arabic on mobile phones across Algeria. The first, sent by the Interior Ministry, declared that "voting is an act of citizenship and responsibility." More recent messages sent on January 25 came from telephone providers like Mobilis. They encourage voters to register, but with mixed success. "It's as if, in France, Gaz de France got into the act!" said one irritated Algerian intellectual. Even imams have been asked to beat the drum in their mosques.

Less than four months before the legislative elections, which should conclude by mid-May, Algerian authorities are trying to mobilize an apathetic electorate by reminding them of what happened in 2007 when 65% of the electorate failed to show up at the polls, the highest rate of abstention ever recorded.

For the first time in 12 years, ten new parties have been given permission to hold their first congress, and are expected to be authorized to stand for election. It's then up to them to make their platforms known within the few remaining weeks. Some, like Amara Benyounes's Union for Democracy and the Republic (UDR), have been waiting for this moment for years. Others, like Islamist Abadallah Saad Djaballah, a jurist, former imam and current director of El Adala (Justice and Development Front), are on their third attempt to create a party.

With 42 formations already in existence, this liberalization of the political landscape should bring the number of parties to nearly 60, the same level reached in 1991 when an open and competitive electoral process was interrupted by the regime, which cancelled elections after the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), an Islamist formation, led voting in the first round of polls. The showdown set off a bloody civil war that claimed as many as 200,000 lives, and ultimately reinforced military rule.

Ali Laskri, Secretary General of the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), is skeptical about the apparent new signs of political competition. "This isn't a sign of opening up – it's a way of fragmenting the electorate," says Laskri.

This main opposition party, which boycotted elections in 2002 and 2007 as a way of denouncing what they consider to be a locked system, is still not sure it will take part in the forthcoming elections. However, seeing as the future Assembly is to revise the Constitution, it has launched consultations with its militants and sympathizers.

Worse than fraud

"The regime's biggest mistake," says Mr. Laskri, "isn't even fraud -- it's having pushed Algerians to no longer believe in elections." For his part, former Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali, who created the Democratic Front in 1992 without ever having been able to hold a public meeting, has decided not to take part. "These elections are a foregone conclusion," he says. "Those in power don't have confidence in the people, and the people don't have confidence in those in power."

After the "Arab Spring" saw Islamist parties emerge victorious in elections in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, Algerian Islamists are hoping for similar results. "If the elections are clean and transparent, the people will decide. We are ready, and – from what we're hearing in the ranks -- very confident," says Bougerra Soltani, president of the Social Movement for Peace (MSP) which is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Created in 1990, the MSP, which has 51 members of parliament and has been part of the government for years, decided in early January to leave the presidential alliance, though leaving its four government ministers in place. It is now in the process of calling for Islamists – including former FIS militants -- to create an alliance. "All of those who have regulated their situation and enjoy civic rights are welcome. We welcome them as Algerians and not as former members of the FIS," Mr. Soltani told Le Monde.

The interview with the Islamist leader took place in his office where a statement is displayed from the nation's Council of Ulemas (Islamic scholars): "The Algerian populace is Muslim; it belongs to the Arab nation. Those who think it has changed paths or is dead are very much mistaken."

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photo - Daggett2008

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Future

Benjamin Button For Real? Scientists Are Close To Cracking The Code To Reverse Aging

The discovery that earned Japan's Shinya Yamanaka the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine has paved the way for new research proving that aging is a reversible process. Currently just being tested on lab mice, will the cellular reprogramming soon offer eternal youth?

A discovery about cellular reprogramming could help reverse aging.

Yann Verdo

PARIS — Barbra Streisand loved her dog Samantha, aka Sammy. The white and fluffy purebred Coton of Tulear was even present on the steps of the Elysée Palace, the French President’s official residence, when Streisand received the Legion of Honor in 2007.

As the singer and actress explained inThe New York Times in 2018, she loved Sammy so much that, unable to bring herself to see her pass away, she had the dog cloned by a Texas firm for the modest sum of 50,000 dollars just before she died in 2017, at the age of 14. And that's how Barbra Streisand became the happy owner of Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet, two puppies who are the spitting image of the deceased Samantha.

This may sound like a joke, but there is one deeply disturbing fact that Harvard Medical School genetics professor David A. Sinclair points out in his book Why We Age – And Why We Don’t Have To. It is that the cloning of an old dog has led to two young puppies.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ