To follow up on the posting on the Benjamin Stora interview (see more Stora here), and the previous post on the Algerian elections (updated), it is helpful to have a look at some snapshots of the campaign trail, using some of the major Algerian newspapers. This first post will look at Bouteflika’s campaign, as it appears to be the only one the big papers are covering.
Bouteflika is reportedly reaching out to the youth vote as ود” الشباب” “Dr. Chebaab” (Dr. Youth), in an attempt to woo young voters away from Louisa Hannoun of the PT. El Khabar describes Boutelflika as meeting with young people in the streets and in cafes. The goal is to “increase communication between the revolutionary generation and the young generation”. This will likely fail. There are already concerns about low voter turnout — as there are with all Algerian elections. Promises of creating 3 million new jobs through massive spending and “strengthening the rule of law” do not appeal to those who have been promised as much before and seen no results. El Watan asks sharply: “Will Algerians resolve to believe in a one-day speech denied by a decade of bitter illusions?” El Khabar English comments that the President’s comments at Arzew on the sluggishness of the east-west highway project “reflect how much he tends to evade his responsibility as the initiator of such a project which he promised to fulfil before April 2009, i.e. before the end of his second term.” (Note that the new El Khabar English is rather opinionated: Compare El Moudjahid‘s report (or El Watan‘s) on the speech in Arzew, to the El Khabar piece. Also have a look at this article on the property declarations of the candidates, which grudgingly compares their stated assets to those of an “owner of a fast food shop or small restaurant”.)
The (essentially) official El Moudjahid reports on Bouteflika’s campaign from Soummam, where he is “carries a message of hope and renewed confidence” and where young Boutefistas say that while collecting signatures for his candidacy “it was very easy to double this figure in barely a week” because of his eloquence and popularity. If there is not enough historical irony in the article on Soummam, one can find plenty on this article on the campaign’s initiatives in Tizi Ouzou. The same newspaper is stressing Bouteflika’s independent candidacy — though he is supported by three of the country’s largest political machines — noting that his campaign’s theme is “work and social justice“. His inevitable partnership with the UTGA is also emphasized.
Liberte looks at the progress made in Oran during Bouteflika’s first two administrations, noting the large sums of money pumped into Oran and the surrounding wilayas with special attention paid to hydraulics. While its report is somewhat positive, it notes that many people have been waiting for 10 years to have access to clean drinking water. Another Liberte article notes Bouteflika’s use of “the language of the people” and his playing to many constituencies on visits round the country. It emphasizes that he improvised parts of his speech in Arzew and in his recent public appearances he has “opted for a radical change by [using speech that is] flexible and accessible to everyone, punctuated with anecdotes, humor and questioning someone in the audience every time, creating a relaxed and undeniably a close [link] between him and the audience”. This is a break from his well known formality. The moral of the story? That “Bouteflika is sometimes surprising and unpredictable.” It predicts that Bouteflika was appeal to peasants in Biskra. Le Matin accuses Bouteflika of using Zidane as a campaign prop by flying him to Algeria for a guided tour. Bouteflika has certainly attempted to use Zidane to reach the population before and it would not be beyond him to do it again — and the former Minister of Youth Sports would know how to. The Bouteflika campaign is robust. So much so that no one seems interested in the “opposition’s” preparations yet. But there seems to be a lack of interest, and, unless something big occurs, voter apathy will remain high regardless of who endorses Bouteflika.