Bouteflika: Victory over the People

A Triumph of the Will.

The results of the Algerian presidential election are in. Abdelaziz Bouteflika topped the polls with 90.24% of the vote, followed by Louisa Hanoune in second place. The results are as follows, from El Moudjahid:

  • Abdelaziz Bouteflika: 90.24%
  • Louisa Hanoune: 4.22%
  • Moussa Touati: 2.31%
  • Djahid Younsi: 1.37%
  • Ali Fawzi Rebiane: .93%
  • Mohamed Said: .92%

The Interior Ministry recorded voter turnout at 77.11% — among the highest in Algeria’s history. In some provinces, notably Khenchela, it was as high as 97.42%. In Berriane, the Interior Ministry recorded turnout at 80%. Bouiria was around 66%, and Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou brought out 29.36% and 30.75% respectively. Here is the table provided in El Moudjahid.

stats

It is interesting to note that turnout in Algiers and the other major cities (Oran and Constantine) are relatively low, even with what appears to be blatant exaggeration on the part of the Interior Ministry. Western reporters (who are mostly in the capital) as well as my own sources in Algiers state that the capital was mostly empty on Thursday. While 65% is rather low, especially considering that most other localities topped at least 75% or more. El Khabar notes that polling stations in the capital’s suburbs were “empty” during the day with residents “going for a walk”. El Khabar also reports on the power of propaganda in the election, comparing it to 2004’s rigged election, while quoting Yazid Zerhouni (the Interior Minister) as attributing the high turnout to improved “spring time weather conditions”. He also claimed that the administration did effective work to inform the people and that one did not have to be “a poly-technical [engineer] to guess why the people went out to vote for Bouteflika.” The President will use this percentage to bolster his mandate on power. The absence of UN or EU observers, even with the operation of AU, Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference observers, makes it difficult to challenge the results. The only results put out have been government results. Rebiane is planning to appeal the results in the Constitutional Court and United Nations. Touati is resisting an appeal for fear of tarnishing Algeria’s international image. (He he appears to agree with one of Bouteflika’s campaign points on improving Algeria’s image abroad.)

Candidates complained that their observers were not able to participate in vote counting and were blocked from stations. RCD, whose observers were present at 58 polling stations according to El Khabar, accuses the Interior Ministry of ordering local authorities to inflate numbers by up to 70%. It particularly mentions Tlemcen (RCD claims 28.13%; the government, 82.13%) and Sidi Bel Abbas (RCD claims 33.17%; the government, 90.65%). (More on this in Le Soir.) Moussa Touati’s party has claimed that soldiers and security personnel were allowed to vote multiple times. In Tamanresset, around Ghardaia and other places in the south several thousand nomads were deprived of their votes by means of the absence or closing of mobile polling stations (as is often the practice in these parts of the country).

El Khabar writes that for fear of terrorist attacks in the eastern provinces (particularly Bejaia, Tebessa) the national army and gendarmes were deployed in large numbers. Youths affiliated with the FFS and gendarmes clashed in Bejaia. Youths in multiple villages in Bouira set fire to poll stations and set off roads with burning tires following protests. At some stations young protesters were beaten back by security forces. It is unsurprising, though, that in Bouteflika’s ancestral village, Mehrez outside of Tlemcen, turnout was 100%.

With respect to the result itself. The Christian Science Monitor quotes the managing editor of El Khabar as saying the following about Hanoune’s second place finish:

“The administration used her because it wanted to show that women are a subject that is en vogue in Algeria, and that we are a modern country,” he says. “But Algerian society does not vote for a woman or a Trotskyite like Louisa Hanoun. There is no constituency for that here.”

For her part, Hanoune accused the private press of sexist and partisan bias against her campaign. She further criticized the FLN and the President’s campaign generally as advocating the “continuity of the one party state”. She also ripped into the opposition accusing Karim Tabbou and the FFS as being “adrift”. In Batna, it is alleged that observers from her Workers Party (PT) were denied access to polling stations and that in Blida PT observers found pre-selected ballots. Though she remarked that she was pleased with “enthusiasm” among the youth, the state still operates “like a cane“. She further condemned a general amnesty with investigations in crimes during the Civil War and denounced comments from a radio program sponsored by the Bouteflika campaign that during the War of Independence “the Arabs lost 1.5 million chouhadas, the Kabyles lost 1.5 million litres of olive oil.” She stated that “we’re going to win and the battle is just beginning,” connecting her struggle with Barack Obama’s victory and with Chavez and Morales in Latin America.

Moussa Touati grumbled about his loss, saying that it is “practically impossible to have a transparent election in Algeria.” Liberte-Algerie described Djahid Younsi’s finish as “dull and tedius“. Mohamed Said claimed to have achieved “100%” of his goals.

10 thoughts on “Bouteflika: Victory over the People

  1. Definitively, Algeria is not better than other arab countries. Wondering what Boutef thinks he can achieve with this third term. He can’t criticize Kadafi and this is a bad precedent for Mauritania down south.

  2. The election results were, of course, thoroughly predictable. What is more interesting is how the generational turnover in Algerian politics and the military will play out over the next five to ten years. Algeria’s formal politics are stagnant – opposition parties are toothless and the state has co-opted pretty much everyone except Berbers and Islamists, who are either shut out of politics or have adopted boycotting elections as their only real “strategy.” But despite all this, there is a real change coming: the post-independence political guard is going to die out in the near term, and Bouteflika’s generation – both in politics and the military – will fall by the wayside soon. What will happen then? Will the younger generation of generals bring a new perspective or approach? Who will replace the old guard in the FLN, and for how long will they be able to maintain the same tired governing strategy? Algeria’s political system has had many of the same characteristics since independence – but essentially the same generation has always been at the helm. I’d be interested in reading more political analysis of Algeria that is forward- rather than backward-looking, because I don’t see these questions addressed by most scholars or journalists.

  3. Jefferson:

    This is a good point. There are some researchers doing work on this — Boubekeur and a few Germans come to mind — but it is true: Most analyses of Algeria look forward insufficiently. I think part of the reason is a lack of political openness, as the leaders of the future are being formed there is no easily observable process. I have talked with some people in Cherchell and cadets in the other military schools about where they see the country going, the notes are waiting to be put into post format or otherwise into writing. Bouteflika has promoted some younger generals, and Ahmed Ouyahia is an important person to watch at the top, in my view.

    Bouteflika’s clique is not especially durable, and I think it is formed out of partially developed elements in the military and economic spheres. There has been limited work in actual “continuity” as far as the regime goes and I think that is a major factor that will contribute to instability in the medium term (depending on when Bouteflika keels).

  4. Sorry on Mauritania, Kal’s unruly relatives next door …

    Things in neighboring Mauritania are not so so. France was behind the coup by General Aziz and Sarkozy is trapped between some conflicting messages between his Elysée and his Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Obama not happy with the prospect of losing what Bush gained in the area. All turn around oil, gas and uranium, I guess. You add in Iran that has promised $2 billion to take over whatever Israel was doing, with $10 million to the General as first deposit.

    Something will blow soon and this is not Algeria. The article below from Reuters summarizes things a week ago and might be wrong as things are evolving in all directions and the opposition seems to be winning the debate. Aziz resigns to run before 22 april, he might just lose it all …

    ======

    ANALYSIS-Mauritania’s Aziz on clear run to presidency

    Saturday, 11 April 2009

    Mauritania’s military leader is in pre-campaign mode, ignoring aid freezes and international condemnation of his coup, and looks set to win a June election his opponents say they will boycott.

    General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz announced this week he would resign before April 22, paving his way to stand in the polls, the first since he ousted the Saharan Islamic state’s first elected leader in an army takeover last August.

    As world bodies backed calls for the return of deposed President Sidi Mohamed Ould Sheikh Abdallahi with sanctions and the suspension of aid, Abdel Aziz has traded in his military uniform for dark suits, and vowed to crack down on Al Qaeda and boost the oil- and iron ore- producer’s economy.

    “The signs are that General Aziz will be a candidate,” said Mauritanian economic analyst Abdellahi Ould Mohamed Awah.

    Like many military rulers elsewhere, Abdel Aziz has used charges of corruption against his predecessor as one of his main justifications for overthrowing the elected leader.

    He has also ventured into new territory, tackling last month what has been a taboo subject in Mauritania — the killing of hundreds of mostly black soldiers under the military rule of President Maaouya Sid’Ahmed Ould Taya two decades ago.

    In Kaedi, on the banks of the river Senegal which divides largely Arab Mauritania from its southern neighbour where most of the population is black, Abdel Aziz led a prayer in memory of the dead and said the government would compensate families of 244 identified victims.

    CAMPAIGN MODE

    Supporters at the event hailed him as “president of the poor and of the innocent”, while observers said the move would increase his appeal to a section of the electorate traditionally hostile to the armed forces.

    “He’s started talking in terms of renewal, which appeals to the people, to the marginalised, to those who’ve been left out,” analyst Mohamed Awah said.

    Neither Abdel Aziz nor his administration has commented on his intentions but his opponents say the message is clear.

    “Everything he is doing is an electoral campaign,” said Mohamed Ould Maouloud, a leader of anti-junta movement the National Front for the Defence of Democracy (FNDD).

    “He’s passing himself off as a saviour by saying that those who were in power before him were nothing but crooks. It’s the rhetoric of a simplistic campaign,” he said.

    If Abdel Aziz does run, his path to the presidency is likely to be smoothed by a boycott of the election by the FNDD, a broad political coalition behind which much of the opposition to the military government has gathered.

    “There is no reason to participate,” the FNDD’s Maouloud said. “We ask for the return to the constitution through consensus with all parties consulted.”

    Still, veteran politician Ahmed Ould Daddah, who is part of the FNDD, so far has not ruled himself out of standing.

    CHANGING TACTICS

    In the days after seizing power, Abdel Aziz insisted his takeover — which he consistently denied was a military coup — was a domestic issue, and the rest of the world should not meddle in Mauritanian affairs.

    Since then his approach to international relations has changed dramatically. He attended a summit of Arab and Muslim leaders in Doha in January, and more recently met with African Union chairman Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.

    The former presidential guardsman, pictured by the official news agency in a sober grey suit and tie, now conforms to orthodox diplomatic niceties such as sending condolences to the Italian president after this week’s earthquake.

    This shift in style has not been enough to satisfy the demands of the international community.

    The African Union imposed sanctions in February, while the European Union said earlier this week it could not work with a military government and would suspend aid for two years.

    Given the ineffectiveness of the threats so far and the potentially key role of Mauritania in fighting Al Qaeda in the region, if the elections go ahead, diplomats may find themselves across the table from Abdel Aziz for some time to come.

    “The elections — even with Abdel Aziz — are likely to provide enough legitimisation to enable normalisation of relations,” said Jason Mosley, Senior Africa Editor at Oxford Analytica. (Additional reporting by Daniel Magnowski in Dakar; Editing by David Lewis)

    By Vincent Fertey

    © Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

  5. Sorry Tidnit,

    but on which elements do yuo base your affirmation that France is (or has been) behind Aziz coup? France has repeated before and after that it would not work with new regimes born from coups in Africa. I know how insincere and hypocritical it may sound, considering France works with dictatures and military regimes everywhere (much like most other democratic countries, by the way). But the fact is that there is little or no evidence to show that France is behind Aziz, just like the same rumors about Madagascar were just as unfounded, in my opinion.

  6. Alphast,

    Check this too: http://www.taqadoumy.com/fr/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1610&Itemid=28,

    There are more and more on Sarko’s involvement in the coup and it started well before now. You can go even as far as December 2007 from the killing of the French tourists that the Generals wanted to blame Sidioca for causing it by neglect while we know now that security matters were in the hands of the two generals. Sarko pushed everyone (including Wade and Kadafi) to help him make Mauritanians swallow the coup for a rectification. All is about oil, gas and uranium and competition with the US and China.

    General Aziz is resigning tonight to run for his mascarade of election on the 6th of June and things have not settled yet for him and his friends. You may wish to visit electronic newspapers such as Taqadoumy and Cridem (www.cridem.org) to know more and take your time, please.

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