RND Sketch

In the comments accompanying the FLN party sketch posted to this blog yesterday, this blogger wrote in passing that the RND (an FLN spin off that emerged in 1997 and has been the secondary party in the ruling coalition since a kind of backup singer for the ex-parti unique) was organized on lines similar to the FLN. It has never been as powerful as the FLN but can be considered a key part of the multiparty procedural regime that emerged after 1995 (it is the famous ‘baby born with a mustache’). This is true an extent though the RND has differences which are important only in the sense that they reflect a somewhat greater level of internal control at lower levels. The precise details are not greatly important. Ideologically the parties are not especially distinct though the FLN has a wider range of trends (more space for ‘national’/’official’ religion, a wider variety of Arabists and Algeria-centric nationalists, stronger statist/leftist tendencies and a greater degree of populist engagement); RND’s ideological position is probably best called ‘status quo’ or the disposition of Werenfels’s ‘nationalist reformer‘ where the FLN would have  a mix of the neo-dinosaur, nationalist reformer and perhaps even some regime supportive Islamists. In any case, the party looked something like what is below in 2010-2011 when the chart below was drawn up (note: the officers and leadership are now different, Abdelkader Bensaleh, not Ahmed Ouyahia is the current Secretary General; also note it does not go down to the khaliya (cell) level but refers to ‘local’ committee in reference to communal, daira, and khaliya coordinating bodies). The 2012 legislative platform was quite broad, very much focused on continuity. Its organization approach borrows heavily from the FLN in form. Note the image there is in PDF and is quote large and requires the viewer to ‘zoom’ in. Dated though it is, it can possibly be of some use.

 

RND 2011 (PDF)

New Chart: Another FLN Sketch

The image below is a sketch of the FLN party structure as described here, on its website. This description differs from past descriptions in some academic texts as well as on the party’s old website and in some flyers from several years ago. Past descriptions describe a larger number of committees for a wider variety of topic areas; this was described on this blog in the past (August 2013) here. The sketch here is simplified and should not be considered ‘complete’ (please contact this blogger with errors or corrections, or additions as such things contribute to ignorance and must be corrected and suggestions from those who know better help to combat ignorance); it does not go into great detail. It is meant to give  a basic idea of how Algeria’s dominant political party is set up and why it has been able to muster followers to the polls so much in the past and why that same structure has actually contributed to factionalism and dissension that was common over the last three years in particular (a big tent nationalist party with a broad membership and a decentralized structure at the grass roots which becomes more hierarchical going up the ranks, following the administrative structure of the Algerian state; this is similar in many ways to the RND, the FLN’s ‘little brother’ party). The process of decision-making found in the party program is not always adhered to strictly, a source of discontent internally; some do as they want regardless of the rules of procedure and factional exclusion often leads to the kind of multiple conferences and fist fights that marked some meetings in the 2010-2013 period. One clique has its direction, another has its own but they share the same party; and so measures are taken to activate obscure rules or to simply sidestep them all together. In the past there were Algerian observers and academics that observed a lack of respect for institutions and attributed it to long periods spent without a constitution, with the authorities living by decree, and a military-shaped political and party culture build having links to the strong role the military played in the party until the late 1980s. Today there may be something to this as well as the politics of the rentier system which when not managed best result in negative tendencies even among those attempting to do good.

Furthermore, on the even of the presidential election, an examination of the party apparatus meant to hold up the incumbent is necessary. The RND has a similar structure (not identical) and serves similar purposes. Both parties are products of the reform of the old parti unique system, in which political parties were instruments of military-administrative purposes, mobilizing mass power for regime initiated campaigns and the distribution of rent. In the old system, the party was among the weakest regime elements and one legacy of this is the enduring weakness of Algerian political parties, which remain dominated by heavy personalities, supporting individual or clique ambitions. Algerian parties often seem to be like capes for prominent people, the Louisa Hannoune’s PT, the MSP of Mahdoudh Nahnah, Moussa Touati’s FNA all follow this pattern. Once the leader is gone the party is likely to go with it. The administrative quality of the FLN and RND gives them greater longevity (though it is difficult to imagine their ability to survive out of power). These parties are made up of powerful clans, cliques and networks tied to the state administration and other leavers of power in the business and energy sectors, and so on; the military had a more overt role till the early 1990s and now has a more opaque one which often is more in the way of the retired than active soldiers having influence, sway or interest in its affairs aside from the political components of the security services, which have always had their ‘place‘ in all political formations in Algeria’s history. More to follow. Continue reading

Another, Weirder Way of Thinking about Re-Organizations

This past autumn saw the rise of a narrative of a resurgent Bouteflika clan, perhaps reacting to two or more years of investigation and depredation by the deep state; the most recent posts on this site have dealt with this subject from a narrative standpoint as these events were reported in prominent Algerian media outlets. The ‘dismemberment’ of the Algerian security services, the DRS and its numerous sub-organs, looked to strengthen the Presidential camp by reorganizing its org chart, moving this department to the Interior Ministry; that directorate to the Defense Ministry proper; this other activity to the Presidency. The second ranking officer in the DRS — Mhenna Djebbar — was dismissed earlier this week (supposedly with other DRS chiefs); a move that fits well in the narrative of a resurgent Bouteflika clan moving to arrange a favorable line up ahead of elections in which the President or some successor will carry on the flame and whatever it stand for. On the face of it, this all looks debilitating, placing the DRS closer to the paws of its spooky doyen’s great rivals. This is how it was presented in most places and many informed people believed or believe this to be the gist of what has happened. Those who have spent some time exploring Algerian politics under Bouteflika often have difficulty accepting this; it does not carry on easily from the presumed anchoring in Algeria’s power politics for sometime vis-a-vis the President and the DRS. It makes the DRS look weak where it has previously been assumed to be strong. Sometimes it is worthwhile to explore other possibilities on a theoretical level for the sake of working out a bigger picture. Some will dismiss this as a useless exercise in conspiracy theorizing.

Recent events force the analyst’s mind to wonder and ask: What if those who look weak are strong and those who look strong are weak?  Continue reading

More to Consider: A Commission, Retirement, and Shuffles

On 30 November this blogger observed that ‘New “data points” will probably emerge by the end of December or later, adding to the mix,’ referring to changes and reforms in Algeria’s security sector. During the summer rumours circulated that changes would be announced regarding the security forces at the wilaya and region level, for the national police, and military. Several of these were announced or intimated in press reports during the last two months.

On 01 December Tout Sur Algerie published a piece stating that PM Sellal intends to form a civilian-military commission to review military promotions and retirements.

Elle aura pour mission d’étudier et d’avaliser les propositions de mise à la retraite ou de promotions d’officiers supérieurs de l’armée nationale, ont précisé nos sources.

Concrètement, le général de corps d’armée Ahmed Gaid Salah, vice-ministre de la Défense nationale, fera des propositions concernant le sort de hauts officiers de l’armée (promotion, mise à la retraite, etc.). La commission se prononcera sur chaque cas, avant de les soumettre au président de la République pour validation définitive. « Le dernier mot reviendra au chef de l’État », soulignent nos sources.

The article mentions only Sellal and Gaid Saleh by name and intimates that the commission will submit recommendations to the President, possibly leading to the retirement of ‘influential generals.’ El Watan has since reported that the committee and other crucial issues related to the military have been handled by Prime Ministry Sellal in particular; he has taken charge of ‘all management actions’ on behalf of the President. The El Watan article seems to suggest that Gaid Saleh may be among those impacted by the commission, or that the changes in the military-intelligence services have been meant to weaken the military’s political power on the whole rather than in specific instances. Continue reading

Struggles Continue in Algeria: What to think?

Since the start of the year, political discussions among Algerians have been dominated by one question: What next, after Bouteflika? News from Algeria in the last quarter has added drama to a sweaty political stalemate in high politics widely seen as a struggle between clans around the President and the chief of the DRS, Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediene. Struggles within the FLN and RND were seen to reflect this to some degree, as the party apparatuses struggled to find consensus over internal leadership (party committees and secretary-generalships) and external leadership – parliamentary group leaderships and even party congress meetings (and meeting places) all through the year. The crisis in the FLN was resolved with Amar Saaidani taking the Secretary-Generalship; but no reporting or rumour suggests this man poses any challenge to Boueflika or that he represents successor material. Rumours about the motives of clans and sub-clans, cliques and former party leaders’ ambitions and agency were rife. Investigations into corruption in SONATRACH, including foreign partners, ripped into Bouteflika’s entourage again (after the fiascos of 2009 and 2010).  Bouteflika’s deep convalescence in France is rumoured to have been what now seems like a tremendous series of rearrangements at the heart of the state: Algerian news outlets reported that on his return the president moved to dismiss one ‘Colonel Fawzi,’ the chief of the Centre de la Communication et de la Diffusion (CCD) DRS’s media unit since 2001 – responsible for information operations and media relations – and replaced him with a ‘Colonel Okba.’ This was followed by a series of public appearances in which Bouteflika received the military Chief of Staff, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister each time sporting the clothes of old age – blankets and quite casual attire. Though he was clearly reduced in strength he seems to have lost no interest in being an active president – this was not a man looking to be seen as a three quarters president. Continue reading

New Chart: FLN Sketch

The graphic below is a chart showing the committees and secretariats that operate within the FLN — under the leadership of its politburo and the secretary general. It is based on an organisational chart that used to be on the FLN’s official website (under construction for almost a year or more). The original chart was in Arabic but is no longer accessible. This chart was put together in mid-late 2011. Readers are welcome to comment or correct at nourithemoor [at] gmail [dot] com. Since the FLN has been in the news recently for internal controversies around the politburo (and the absence of a secretary general, and  similar problems), it seemed fitting to provide readers with an idea of what these things look like as far as general, structural composition is concerned. Hopefully, there will be more to follow. Continue reading

Translation: Kadri on ‘Algerian Intellectuals’

This post features a translation of a 11 July 2013 interview in El Watan (conducted by Amel Blidi) with Aissa Kadri, an Algerian sociologist based in Europe. Here, Kadri critiques Algerian intellectuals’ disengagement from sociological debates in Algeria and their confinement to power relationship vis-a-vis elite power structures. It appears to have been passed around among many people in the original French. It is worth translating for the sake of bringing out some of the public sphere discussions that are taking place in Algeria as the country faces looming political transition, the [gradual] passing of the country’s first political generation, the reality of rather widespread micro-instability and a region changing rapidly and unpredictably.

Industry Arabic - translation services 300-1This translation was provided by Industry Arabic, a full service translation firm that provides English-Arabic-French technical, legal, and engineering translation management. Industry Arabic will provide glimpses from Algerian and Maghrebi presses to this site as part of an ongoing partnership.   Continue reading

Translation: ‘Ton corps est ton crime,’ by Kamel Daoud

[NOTE: This is a guest post and translation by author and translator Suzanne Ruta, who has contributed translations to TMND in the past. The piece was written in the context of  the Amina trial in Tunisia and discussion around women's dress in Algeria.

Kamel Daoud, Algerian novelist and journalist, (Quotidien d’Oran, Algerie-Focus)  wrote this rant  the day eighteen year old Amina Sboui was found guilty in Tunisian court, of carrying pepper spray at a Salafist demonstration in the Tunisian holy city of Kairouan in late May.  She was still in jail as of June 5th, when she appeared in court, in handcuffs and a full body covering, to answer charges of public indecency and desecration of public property. (She had written the word FEMEN on a cemetery wall.)

The whole flap  began when Amina wrote in Arabic on her bare torso, and published the photo on facebook in March ” My body belongs to me. It is not the source of anyone’s honor.”  Daoud backtracks that hopeful assertion.  “To whom does a woman’s body belong? To her country, her family, her husband, her older brother, her neighborhood, the boys on her street, her father, and the State, her ancestors, her national culture and its taboos.” 

This is another of Daoud’s  highly original riffs, where he jumps from close up social observation, to millennial grief  you could call it, but somehow with a  heartening result.  It’s best understood against the background of fog, obfuscation and vast lies by omission that permeate Algerian TV (the lone state run channel) and political discourse.  It continues his lament, over the last year, about creeping salafism in Algeria, as its spokesmen are emboldened by recent successes in Tunisia. In Blida, Daoud noted lately with some bitterness an imam proposes that young women adopt the hijab at the age of ten!  Daoud has a big following in Algeria and in France for his witty passionate succinct commentary on current events. 

Daoud has been writing a column several times a week in the Quotidien d’Oran, raina raikoum – meaning your opinion, my opinion, for the last ten years. He is also a prize winning novelist and short story writer. His facebook link is https://www.facebook.com/kamel.daoud.7

Charts: APN 2012-2017 Features & Bodies

This post provides a graphic overview of some of the internal bodies and features of the 2012-2017 Algerian National Assembly (Assemblée Populaire Nationale/al-Majlis al-Sha’abi al-Watani; APN) — the lower house of the Algerian parliament. The graphics included below include the members of the APN Bureau and Standing/Permanent Committees and Commissions in charts and graphs. The information here is taken from the APN website, which has a good amount of information about the delegates and their activities, but not enough. Information on membership of the APN ‘Friendship Committees’ for various countries is not yet available there as it is for past APN classes (see the Charts & Graphics page for the membership of the 2007-2012 friendship committees).

APN1

PDF.

Mechanizations in Mauritania: Reports

After a month with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in hospital in France, members of Mauritania’s ruling party, opposition and military appear to be growing impatient. Early November saw the first mass protests since the president was shot in early October and Mauritania’s generals met on 17 October in a reportedly tense meeting during which the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mohamed Ould Ghazouani came under pressure from some attendees to take a more assertive political role, which Ghazouani reportedly resisted. Articles in Essirage and al-Akhbar, two Mauritanian Arabic-language news sites, recently published reports describing parliamentary mechanizations that might lead to major changes in the political landscape in coming days and weeks. The report discusses efforts by members of parliament to find a way ‘out of the constitutional vacuum’. One should note how some external analyses of the situation in Mauritania over the last year have elided or ignored its constitutional dramas, set in motion largely by the president with the help of parts of the opposition (through passivity or inertia), not least the failure to hold parliamentary elections on time which has meant that the political system has been more or less extra-constitutional since about last October. Continue reading

Broad Thoughts on Algeria’s New Cabinet

Some thoughts on recent appointments in Algeria. This is how things look from roughly 06/07 September to 11 September, to this observer at least. All impressions subject to change.

  • There are superficial demographic similarities between this cabinet and previous ones, but Bouteflika’s ‘clan’s’ dominance specific is less emphatic than before. Boudjerra Soltani who heads the MSP (whose political fortunes have been in the dumps since the May election) describes the new ‘technocratic’ cabinet as ‘punishment for the FLN’. There Prime Minister belongs to no political party, which Soltani seems to take as evidence of the ‘breaking of all alliances’ with the political parties and Bouteflika. Certainly the new cabinet looks somewhat like an effort at fronting something newer, younger and actionable (see the two charts below comparing the last Ouyahia cabinet to the recently appointed Sellal cabinet, note that Sellal’s cabinet remains slightly smaller). If the rumours are true (which they well may not be), Bouteflika has been absent and sick and is preparing the ground for the end of his presidency. It is unlikely major changes will result from this cabinet, but it may increase confidence among some foreign investors and firms. Continuity is the more likely outcome of the appointments at the moment, though. As per usual, though, rumours about the President’s health over the summer and the last week point to physical incapacity and/or fatigue, including foreign travel for treatment, somewhat reminiscent of similar rumours in 2005 and 2006. The Foreign Ministry has officially denied these rumours and the press made a big to do when Bouteflika received foreign dignitaries, including the Prime Minister of Qatar, this week. (Each year rumours about Bouteflika’s health or death are taken more and more seriously inside and outside Algeria, for obvious reasons.) It is quite likely that the long period of indecision leading up to the appointments reflects elite deadlock, especially given the president’s ‘condition’ and the proximity to the municipal and 2014 presidential elections.
  • Sellal represents basic consensus and continuity. Abdelmalek Sellal is a longtime high-level technocrat linked to the clans loyal to the president. Sellal’s credits include what some consider a successful stint at the Ministry of Water Resources, where TSA says he is ‘using billions of dollars, largely solved the problem of water distribution in the major cities,” without the scandals that rocked the other major industrial and infrastructure enterprises over the last decade (a reference to Public Works minister Amar Ghoul, who is still in the cabinet and recently broke with the MSP). Sellal is a heavyweight and a loyalist to Bouteflika, having run his 2004 reelection campaign and been long associated with the president’s cadre of technocrats, though unlike many of Bouteflika closest associates, Sellal is from Constantine and from a Kabyle background (note also that Sellal was Interior Minister in 1999 and responsible for organising the presidential election in that year, which brought Bouteflika to power). His resume includes times as a wilaya and daira official in Guelma, Tamanrasset, Arzew and the Ministry of the the Interior; Wali in Boumerdes, Adrar, Sidi Bel Abbes, Oran and Laghouat; director general for resources at the Foreign Ministry and Ambassador to Hungry; and as a minister of the Interior, Environment, Public Works, Youth and Sports, Transportation before heading the Ministry of Water Resources. Sellal, 64, has been around the system as much as any high official in Algeria’s recent past, superficially similar to Ouyahia (as a Kabyle alumni of the Ecole National d’Administration (ENA) though he is considered non-ideological and is less polarising). Nonetheless, Sellal’s appointment does appear to be the result of a negotiated process (taking as long as it did) between the ‘clans’ that run Algeria’s politics (Amar Ghoul was widely considered another candidate, likely rejected for any number of reasons) and he is likely represents the technocratic, transitional nature of the regime in Bouteflika’s twilight years.
  • The departure of Ahmed Ouyahia, Boubekeur Benbouzid (education), Said Barakat (National Solidarity), Noureddine Zerhouni (advisor. former interior minister), Noureddine Moussa (environment),  and Abdellah Khanafou (fisheries) are notable because these are big men with big roles; Ouyahia is obvious but nonetheless very important, and signals some change in direction given Ouyahia’s high profile and association with rather unpopular economic policies. On top of this, one might also look at this as his positioning himself to run a presidential campaign and expand (or rebuilt or fortify) his support base.
  • The retention of Amar Ghoul at Public Works has him making money and friends and it will be interesting to see if perceptions of him as gunning over for a presidential run end up being true or if these rumours are true and the political environment actually facilitates some level of success. His new party, TAJ (which he has said is not an Islamist party has helped retain some of his fellow ex-MSP ministers, and it is likely their cabinet positions will help in any effort to build out their party over time.) The appointment of Belkacem Sahli (b. 1974) is also significant generationally speaking and points to elite circulation by bringing in people from later generations, something Algerians who care about cabinet appointments have sought for some time. The average birth year for ministers in the last cabinet was 1947; this cabinet will likely skew closer to 1950, with most ministers still having been born in the late 1940s and 1950s but with a few more born in the 1960s than in the past.
  • There are fewer FLN men and people closely associated with the traditional inner circles than in the previous cabinet. The big names are gone: Belkhadem (personal representative of the president), Zerhouni (Interior Minister until 2010, now out of government), Ouyahia, and so on. Men close to Bouteflika, like Abdelhamid Temmar (Forecasting and Statistics) are basically in place and there appears to be space made for any range of constituencies within the regime. This is a negotiated cabinet and one might think this put the FLN and RND on the back foot somewhat, though Belkhadem’s own comments about the cabinet (“we support the government“) and that Ouyahia’s RND did not hold its usually summer school which is significant in both cases considering the November municipal elections are upcoming and will important in showing the strength of both parties’ networks of patronage and their ability to mobilise supporters; Belkhadem especially (and Ouyahia perhaps only slightly less so) is likely to still be thinking about running for president in 2014. The new cabinet also includes fewer men from Tlemcen and western Algeria (unlike previous cabinets which where this ratio was much higher).
  • These appointments probably interest outside analysts and pouvoirologists (to steal the phrase recently invented by 7our) and the like more so than ordinary Algerians at the ground level, for whom they make only a minor difference.

Comparison of Ouyahia’s cabinet (2010-2012) to Sellal’s cabinet (2012). 

 

Pouvoir and Agency

Reuters published an article on 20 June (‘Algeria’s elite at loggerheads over next president‘), describing fissures within Algeria’s elite and how these are believed to be influencing the (non-) selection of a successor to elderly and ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The article is quite good. Up front, the fact that Boutelfika, who is over 70-years-old, has not designated a successor and that this is being done by clans and camps speaks to the often mentions similarities between Bouteflika’s style of rule and that of Houari Boumediene, who ruled the country from 1965-1978, when he died of an obscure blood disease (Boutelfika was a key player as Boumediene’s foreign minister). When Boumediene died suddenly (his illness was kept secret while he received medical care in the Soviet Union), Algeria’s military and civilian elites began bickering over who would succeed him, men from the party, the Foreign Ministry and the military had their views, ultimately the military torpedoed the prospects for the civilian candidates, including Bouteflika by various means, and installed Colonel Chadhli Bendjedid.¹ The Reuters piece makes good reading with Le Soir‘s 20 June interview with Chafik Mesbah, a DRS officer cum political commentator. Take both with a grain of salt. According to the Reuters piece, Algerians suspect five possibilities for a Bouteflika successor:

- Abdelaziz Belkhadem. A Bouteflika ally and the head of the National Liberation Front, traditionally the ruling party. It won last month’s parliamentary election. He would open up the economy to investors and reach out to Islamists, an influential group. Some in the secularist elite think his closeness to Islamists makes him suspect, and they would prefer a cleaner break from Bouteflika. He could though emerge as a compromise candidate because he straddles the Islamist and secularist camps.

- Said Bouteflika. The president’s younger brother. If he became president it would be a continuation of the incumbent’s rule. That is resisted by many in the elite, who think a family dynasty is wrong and that, anyway, it is time for a change.

- Amar Ghoul. A moderate Islamist who until last month was minister of public works. He is close to the Bouteflika camp. His selection would signal Algeria is coming into line with the trend in the region for Islamists to gain power. For many in the elite, choosing an Islamist though would be too much to stomach.

- Ahmed Ouyahia. Many in “le pouvoir” believe the serving prime minister’s push for economic nationalism has failed to create jobs, and it is time for him to go. He hinted at the debate going on behind the scenes when he said on July 2: “I know I annoy people, that’s the way it is.”

- An outsider. At times, the elite drafts in a presidential candidate from outside the mainstream to show it is ready to embrace reform. This could be Ahmed Benbitour, a technocrat who resigned as prime minister in 2000 after clashing with Bouteflika. Another option could be Mouloud Hamrouche, also a former prime minister who, his supporters say, was fired in 1991 because he wanted to reform the economy. Both are secularists.

This is a good overview of the personalities and attitudes involved as far as most people can tell. The description of Belkhadem is somewhat optimistic, in that he is a polarising figure coming out of the FLN; his ability to straddle camps will likely be dependent on the results of struggles over his leadership within the FLN. Ouyahia was until about two years ago a favoured candidate for succession among many, including this blogger. He attached himself too closely to the economic reform platform and thus became too controversial. Ghoul is also controversial, coming from the establish Islamist MSP (the Algerian Muslim Brotherhood) which under performed in the May legislative election. When thinking about MSP men in terms of Islamism, though, it is important recognise that this is a minority movement within Algerian Islamism and that its leaders, Ghoul in particular, have been in governing roles for most of the Bouteflika period. On the younger Bouteflika, there was strong resistance to the suggestion of him becoming the president’s successor early on and it would speak strongly about the depth of unseen forces if the Algerian political class came round to the idea of him as president. Those convinced of Algeria’s ‘exceptionalism’ or insulation from Tunisian or Egyptian style revolts and instability should consider the influence of succession crises and uncertainties on events in those countries in the 2010-2011 period; those not convinced on these lines should consider the longterm triumph of the Algerian regime’s agility in surfing over spontaneity and instability. The situation as of now puts Algeria in its usual posture, at any point some unforeseen event could upend years worth of assumptions. Such is life.

Still, the Reuters piece also offers an opportunity to think about some of the habitual problems in even the best reporting on Algerian politics in English (and frequently on this blog). Nothing is perfect and even things widely regard as sound today will eventually become passé.  Continue reading

Graphics and Concepts: Thinking About Algerian Politics

The slides below were drawn up in 2009 and 2010; this blogger put them together in the course of ordinary research and used them mainly to journalists or others trying to familiarise themselves with the general contours of Algerian politics. More of these will appear on this blog shortly.

The first one deals with Bouteflika’s political ‘legitimacy’ within the Algerian political establishment and wider international community. The themes of the projection of certain images: order, stability, reconciliation, the centrality of the executive, normalcy. These are the sort of things the Algerian government would prefer the world gleaned from the Bouteflika presidency. Some of the points in the cultural and institutional level could be moved into each others’ places; a flaw in the concept here.

The next slide is a generalisation about the process of rule in Algeria in the 1960s and 1970s — what is remembered by some as a time of plenty under Boumediene. The objective with this slide is to draw parallels with Bouteflika’s style of rule, which draws heavily on methods and lessons from the Boumediene period (which were formative years for Bouteflika, when he was Foreign Minister and before that Minister of Sports and Youth, it was also a time of plentiful energy revenues and a post-conflict environment not unlike the 2000s in Algeria; many of the means of control under Boumediene were revitalised or revamped for the multiparty period under Bouteflika, especially the mass organisations and similar institutions). A similar slide used in other presentations adjusts this (no pictures)  to include tribal or other informal and local networks, aside from just categories of state institutions.

The third slide shows three ‘circles’ (really, rectangles) of power and elite influence: indirect elites, advisory elites and decideurs. These generalisations are meant to describe varying levels of influence official decisions and non-decisions, outcomes and processes in Algerian politics, mainly in terms of high politics, but it might be of some utility, with modifications, at lower levels. It draws on Isabelle Werenfels’s work on Algerian elite dynamics (Managing Instability in Algeria, 2007) and on Quandt’s work (Revolution and Political Leadership: Algeria 1954-1968, 1969).

The fourth slide is used to discuss continuity through the various periods of Algeria’s political history after the death of Boumediene. It begins with Chadhli Bendjedid, followed by the post 1988 infitah (opening) and the rise of the FIS, the 1992 coup d’etat and civil war and then the consolidation of Bouteflika’s rule after 1999. A question mark is probably the best adjustment to make at this point. In terms of continuity, the centrality of the price of hydrocarbons, the role of the military (and how this changes) and the direction of decisions made by important individual actors are usually focal points of discussion; the key characteristics of the Algerian regime and the fragmentation of Algerian society are other points of interest. It is not especially useful on its own, and is usually accompanied by other graphics and notes.

‘Voting Early’: Kamel Daoud on Algeria’s Legislative Elections (Translation)

Kamel Daoud writes a pithy poignant column, ‘Raina Raikoum’ (My Opinion, Your Opinion) for the Quotidien d’Oran. His novels and short stories have won several awards. He can also be read in Slate Afrique (slateafrique.com)  This skeptical look at Algeria’s upcoming legislative elections ran in the Quotidien d’Oran on April 4, 2012.  Continue reading

Just a Note on Mauritania

These are some general thoughts on the political situation in Mauritania as they stand now. The country is divided in significant ways and the economic situation leaves much to be desired for the average person, a situation many can attest to. The  Some of this is economic — owing to drought, mismanagement, unemployment, food insecurity and the like — some of it is the result of distinctly domestic or external factors. The violence related to the census protests (remember the ‘Don’t Touch My Nationality’ campaign) in September and October was notable in that the government’s response was to cancel the census, which also meant the legislative elections — which had already been pushed back to October from earlier dates — had to be postponed for the spring (also creating the potential for a constitutional crisis). The scheduling of the municipal and legislative elections will be a major point to watch in the next few months. Some of these problems were worked out during the dialogue between parts of the opposition (led mainly by the APP and a few smaller parties, El Wiam, Hammam, and Sawab; the RFD, UFP and the rest of the COD, boycotted the dialogue; the process left the opposition bitterly divided) and the UPR, especially the provision of an independent electoral commission. As interesting is the fact that there have been so many generalised and organised expressions of economic and political dissatisfaction in the last three to four months. Strikes, threats of strikes, sit-ins, youth and opposition demonstrations have gone on with some regularity. There was a rally for the ruling UPR at Nouadhibou not long ago where very few people showed up aside from functionaries and there are signs of cracks in the party (one commentator called it ‘a giant with feet of clay‘). The fall of Qadhafi deprived President Ould Abdel Aziz of an important source of largesse and external rent which helped him buy allies and build his political base; a number of big mining and energy deals came through this year which probably helped balance this off but this was probably (though not surely) the best performing part of the economy. There is an impression many of the mining deals that went through in the autumn and early winter were part of an effort to raise money, rent-seeking; and in the general sense there are reports of widespread nepotism from members of the president’s family, getting a stake in this company or that one, putting pressure on banks for their own benefit. Even at SNIM there have been reports about top level scrabbles where professional engineers have complained about family ties getting the way of work; earlier in the year there was a scandal over interns who never showed up to work but were give large stipends regardless. Agriculture and other critical areas were hard hit by bad weather; the Red Cross/Crescent recently said about a million Mauritanians will go hungry in 2012 unless something is done to avert it — that one million number is out of just under four million people. So things are hard in Mauritania and that is not new. How this will impact how things in Mauritania play out in 2012 is worth pondering. This blog has focused on the AQIM and security element but there are problems the country faces that are in some ways more serious and potentially more (or as) destabilising than terrorism or banditry; this should not be forgotten. The country continues to suffer from ‘rent-driven underdevelopment’, which Mamoun A. Ismaili discusses in a recent essay in the IPRIS Maghreb Bulletin (Autumn/Winter 2011). Ismaili’s essay is a good primer on Mauritania’s political economy and its background, and puts the current government into historical perspective. It also sums up some of the recent episodes described in this post.

  1. Ismaili, Mamoun A. ‘Power Devolution in Mauritania: The Chasse Gardée of a Rent-Seeking Elite,’ Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security, Maghreb Bulletin, No. 12 (Autumn/Winter, 2011), pp. 3-7.

Short Algeria Link List

A few Algeria-related links:

  1. MSP: Partira… partira pas?El Watan,  30 December, 2011.
    1. The MSP (Algeria’s Ikhwan) is scheduled to announce its shura council’s decision on whether or not to leave or remain in the ruling coalition with the FLN and RND. This short article describes a schism within the party and some of the politics around it. Worth reading in the context of the previous post on this blog and the parliamentary election due to take place in five months.
  2. Ahmed Hadjadj. Président de l’APC de Berriane «Une certaine appréhension à l’approche des élections”,’ El Watan, 30 December, 2011.
    1. This is an update on the ethno-sectarian disturbances that took place in Berriane, Ghardaia province between Ibadhite Berber (‘Mzabites’, ‘Mozabites’) and Sunni Arab (‘Chaambas’, ‘Malikites’, ‘Sunnis’ ‘Arabes’) residents, mainly youths. The interviews with the president of the local assembly and touches on the government’s efforts to diffuse socio-economic tensions there. The Berriane crisis was covered on this blog in 2009 and 2010; a pact between local elders and government leaders was negotiated in 2010. The interview is an interesting update on this situation. Take it with a grain of salt, of course.
  3. Algeria: Exception in Arab Turmoil,’ Xinhua, 30 December, 2011.
    1. An interesting take on a question asked many, many times this year. It lets the reader know ties between Beijing and Algiers remain firm. A superior analysis can be seen here, at Fair Observer, although this reader dislikes the idea of ‘silence’, as Algerians were not silent in 2011 and there were important political protest trends; things did happen but they were different from what happened elsewhere for very important reasons, some of which the FO piece gets at skillfully.
  4. Les dirigeants de l’ex-FIS publient un mémorandum,’ TSA, 28 December, 2011.
    1. The leaders of the ex-FIS are planning to campaign ‘at the United Nations and other international bodies’ to protest their continued exclusion from politics by the new political parties law. Related story at El Khabar.
  5. Réformes politiques, niveau de vie, libertés, SNMG, allègement du credoc, boom des importations…2011, L’année des désillusions,’ El Watan, 29 December, 2011.
    1. A summary of big socio-economic trends and events in Algeria in 2011. The author is not ecstatic.
  6. Bouira: les habitants de Thilioua ferment la mairie d’Ath Lakser,’ El Watan, 26 December, 2011.
    1. This article deals with a frequent occurrence in some towns and rural parts of Algeria, not just in 2011 but over the last several years, where local people will shut down local municipal or communal offices and property over some set of grievances. One sees articles about this sort of thing on and off, it is important to consider these sorts of things when reading articles about how ‘nothing’ happened in Algeria in 2011 or the like; things did happen all the time, though it was not of the same character in other parts of the region.
  7. Draâ El Mizan (Tizi Ouzou): des villageois ferment la RN 25,’ El Watan, 26 December, 2011.
    1. This is included for the same reasons as above (no. 6).

And the World Turns

Continuing on the theme from the last post — speculation and anticipation about the Algerian regime’s posture ahead of the 2012 legislative election — are a two articles taken from recent headlines; one which comes from an interview with Chafik Mesbah (a former Algerian intelligence (DRS) officer and political scientist), dealing with issues similar to the Le Soir article discussed previously and another comes from El Khabar and includes the latest in Abdallah Djaballah’s and Louisa Hanoune’s tit-for-tat on the Islamist tendency in Algeria. Continue reading

The Way Forward: Schmes & Speculation

There are many rumours and whispers about what will happen in Algeria’s election next year; how the parliament will look, what parties will be allowed to run and which will not, which will perform well and which will not. The Islamist trend is generally assumed to do well, given regional trends, popular sentiments and the government’s effort to put on a show of piety which some say means even they know or believe Islamists inside Algeria may hope to turn out to do what other have in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. A ‘well informed source’ (government) told the Francophone daily Le Soir D’Algerie about the Algerian government’s supposed strategy for managing the Islamist trend in the upcoming legislative election in either February or March 2012. The article outlines the regime’s perception of the situation generally, lays out how it sees the main Islamist trends emerging and their relationships to one another and to the regional Islamist trend in eastern Algeria and to the ex-FIS cadres and then drops some names from the ‘revolutionary family’ the article’s source says will appear in the campaign in 2012 as part of the Algerian regime’s effort to balance and control Islamist parties and trends. It also includes a reference to the possibility of the FFS participating in the election (it boycotted in 2007). In any case on is curious to find out why other reasonably prominent parties like Moussa Touati’s Algerian National Front (FNA) and  so on are not mentioned in the grand scheme Le Soir lays out. This is of course but one report.  The is an interesting piece in looking at the Algerian scene as some see it and should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. This blogger’s comments are interspersed in the text of the summary below.  Continue reading