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Kabylie is not happy

March 10, 2009

But was it ever? Here’s two pre-election interviews with the leaders of Algeria’s two main Kabyle parties, the liberal/secularist RCD and the social-democratic FFS, Algeria’s oldest opposition party. As someone pointed out to me, they don’t like being described as Berber parties, but as I pointed back, they mostly are.

Said Saadi (RCD) in Le Monde: [in French]

One cannot save Algeria and the regime at the same time. Today, it would be irresponsible to become involved in these twisted political games, which are the root of the disaster ( . . . ) Boycotting is a duty, and even a patriotic necessity. Bouteflika, he’s the Mugabe of Northern Africa.

Karim Tabbou (FFS) in the Arab Reform Bulletin:

By boycotting the elections, we delivered an important message to the Algerian people: we are boycotting this corrupt regime and refusing to take part in its political game.

Such negative vibes. But what are they whining about? The Economist explains.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Laroussi permalink
    March 10, 2009 21:30

    “Bouteflika, he’s the Mugabe of Northern Africa”, writes Said Saadi (RCD) in Le Monde.

    That is hilarious. What about the dancing Moroccan dervish MVI, President Ben Ali in Tunisia or Libya’s Gaddafi?

  2. March 11, 2009 00:16

    Question: would you say RCD and FFS are still relevant? Do they have a power base even in the east, or are they ignored and kept alive for appearances sake?

    • March 11, 2009 05:31

      I think both are still relevant, though in different ways than they have been historically. They have lost some of their credibility because of their inability to deliver results, which is in part a problem with the system and and in part the result of their own corruption. At the same time, though, both parties have moved out of the traditional comfort zone as it were (in Kabylie and the Kabyle community in Algiers) and into some of the other Berber-speaking areas like Ghardaia in the south. There they have had some electoral success. They do still have their power base, but as time goes on and people get fed up with boycotting every major election their popularity and relevance declines. But I do not think they can be written off as being kept alive simply for appearances, especially with regards to the FFS. I think that is something that can be more easily said of the RCD (given some of its history, but even still, look at its recent line towards Boutef and state corruption in parliament), but the media (which is often owned or run by government loyalists) is accusing Karim Tabbou of colluding with Israel and Morocco to make up lies about Bouteflika’s health. I don’t think they’re being kept around for the regime’s benefit.

    • March 11, 2009 05:39

      I should also note, though, that the fact that both parties have not taken any drastic measures against the regime greatly limits their importance. The FFS is the oldest opposition party in the country, and the RCD and FFS are the only major political organizations (the Islamists lack a well organized opposition party) that have not been thoroughly coopted by the regime. That is important, but it also means that they have been sidelined in a different way. They have no effectively dealt with Bouteflika.

  3. ibnkafka permalink
    March 11, 2009 08:52

    RCD, not coopted? Well, they were between 1992 and 1996, and broke off with the décideurs when the latter were not sufficiently éradicateurs to their taste, or am I mistaken? I’ve always seen the FFS as the more relevant party of the two on the national scene – although I know that RCD has an undeniable weight in Kabylie.

    • March 11, 2009 12:23

      Very true, but again, the political environment has changed and they haven’t been as coopted as, say, Louisa Hannoun and the Works Party.

  4. March 11, 2009 13:43

    Agree with the above: they are still relevant, in so far as any legal opposition group is relevant. Partly due to their role in Kabylie, partly due to their long history in politics. But no, they have no influence on the government today, and only a little outside of Kabylie (for example, Liberté, a major newspaper, is aligned with RCD). They would have limited influence in a liberalized order where Islamists would suck up most of the non-regime electorate, although if things remained peaceful, they could probably find a useful niche to work in there.

    I have to confess to some sympathy for FFS. They seem to be in miserable shape now, and they’re hauling around a lot of old socialist luggage that isn’t doing them or Algeria any good, but but historically they’ve been the most consistently independent and pro-democratic opposition party in Algeria. As for RCD, they’re good on economy and seem principled enough now, but as Ibn Kafka pointed out, they played a really dubious role during the 90s when they tried to torpedo reconciliation talks, arm in arm with the military hardliners.

  5. ibnkafka permalink
    March 11, 2009 14:06

    I especially remember Mr 5%, as Saïd Saadi was called after his first candidacy, telling “je me suis trompé de société” after the results came in – a pretty damning declaration for anyone inte electoral politics. In another context, it would have spelled his political death.

    As regards Louisa Hanoune, amazing that she’s considered as coopted when one looks back at her very courageous stand in the 90’s. What made her go that way?

    As alle, I have more sympathy for the FFS, who seem the more “grownup” and the less parochial of the two. But then again, the choice on offer isn’t overwhelming.

  6. March 11, 2009 14:23

    LaroussiWhat about the dancing Moroccan dervish MVI, President Ben Ali in Tunisia or Libya’s Gaddafi?

    Maybe we should arrange a dictator lookalike contest. Bouteflika strikes me as more of an Ubu character than a Mugabe, strutting around yelling like that (between dwarflike and power-hungry, we’re clearly dealing with a Napoleon complex). I’d put up M6 as the Imelda Marcos of the Maghreb (pudgy and pro-US, flamboyantly rich and slightly disgusted by commoners), Ben Ali as its Brezhnev (mind-numbingly boring, refusing change, promoting his family), and Qadhafi as, obviously, the Willy Wonka of North African dictators.

  7. March 11, 2009 14:35

    I think Hanoune basically decided to grab on to the Bouteflika bandwagon rather than be run over by it, but it could also be that she agrees with parts of his program, eg. financially, and appreciates that he’s sidelining the army. She’s still pretty freewheeling in her criticisms, like on oil laws and foreign investment (where she led the charge against liberalization), and breaks taboos with no apparent repercussions (publicly condemning the Sahara policy), but at the same time she’s participating in elections and playing according to the rules, doing just fine as Bouteflika’s in-house opposition. Perhaps that option wasn’t open to RCD & FFS, even if they’d wanted? — given the resentments against Boutef among their Kabyle base and local competition from more radical anti-regime groups such as the Arouche.

    • March 11, 2009 17:38

      I think that’s pretty accurate, but I would add to the RCD’s list of supporters some of the less pro-Boutef crowd in the military as well. I don’t the FFSs supporters would tolerate that kind of court opposition, especially given the fact that the FFS lost supporters to the RCD and that it is trying to remake itself to accommodate younger people attracted to the arrouche movement and the other more restive avenues. However, you have to consider that many of Hanoune’s positions are shared by the “in crowd”, especially with regards to the anti-liberalization policies and foreign investment. She a good deal of common ground with some of the people at the top and while she is allowed to come down on what are really pretty peripheral issues (like the Sahara; that’s an issue you mostly hear older people grumbling about; you only find a few people north of the Sahara that care about the Sahara that didn’t live through the wars) she has not been able to break many of the issues her former supporters expected her to stand on (like the family code, for example; you won’t see her going up against MSP’s policies, for instance). She has lost a significant amount of credibility as a result buddying up with the regime. But she continues to criticize, on what she is allowed to. It is definitely a survival mechanism: A female communist could be easily discredited or sidelined by the political machine, especially if she continued to gain support.

    • April 7, 2009 20:58

      M6 disgusted by commoners? Hmmmm you mean the poor? In my experience the mate is fairly chill around commoners.

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