Algeria reading: political parties, Ouyahia, AQIM
Here’s a mixed bag of Algeria stuff for you, which I have no intention to edit into a comprehensible post.
1. POLITICAL PARTIES
El-Quds el-Arabi has a very interesting survey of internal troubles in Algerian political parties for those who read Arabic. The FLN, MSP, RCD, PT and FNA all get their share of attention, with the crisis seemingly most severe in MSP (the Algerian Muslim Brotherhood), which is on the verge of splitting in opposition to Party Leader Boudjerra’s ironfisted rule — I’ve mentioned this before. According to el-Quds el-Arabi’s correspondent, Kamal Zait, the reason trouble is stirring right now might be connected to the revelation that the president’s brother Sa’id Bouteflika is planning a new political party. (Adding insult to injury, it’s going to be called el-Jil el-Hurr, The Free Generation.) That might be true for the FLN and the FNA, but eg. the MSP’s crisis sure sounds like a genuinely homegrown case of organizational mismanagement and lack of internal democracy. But what do I know.
Anyway, my favorite among these crises is that of Louisa Hanoun’s PT, which, in keeping with its Trotskyite principles, has an internal rule that MP:s must share their parliamentary salary with the party. However, people being what they are, several candidates immediately reneged on this promise as soon as they were elected, causing Mrs. Hanoun no end of trouble, and, also in keeping with Trotskyite principles, threatening party splits. Having now lost control over a number of her parliamentarians, she is infuriated that the speaker of the house has ordered payment of salaries to the parliamentarians individually, rather than to the party’s bank account, thus wrecking her chances of ending their permanent revolution. In response, she has called for the dissolution of the parliament and fresh elections, hoping thus to take down the house on top of the mutineers — Kronstadt style. (Will not happen.)
2. AHMED OUYAHIA
French-speakers, on the other hand, are directed towards this Jeune Afrique article on Algeria’s no. 1 apparatchik, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia of the RND party, who, I think, one should keep an eye on for the post-Bouteflika future. That is, if Sa’id doesn’t mind.
3. AL-QAEDA IN THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB
Finally, we’re way overdue in discussing the killing of a hostage by al-Qaida’s southern wing a while ago. The group had demanded the release of Abu Qatada, an extremist Palestinian preacher imprisoned in the UK, who has a long history of involvement with the Algerian Jihad. Since that is a virtually unfulfillable demand, two obvious interpretations present themselves: either, the kidnappers weren’t even interested in talks, and raised this demand solely in preparation for the kill. Or, they wanted London to open a channel of negotiations and slide them a few million sterling on the side, while publicly letting their Abu Qatada demand drop, under the cover of some sort of negotiation or political gesture — it wouldn’t be the first time, you know. According to the British ambassador in Algeria (via el-Nahar), this was in fact the case: after advancing the Abu Qatada claim, they quietly asked instead for $10 m, then revised the figure downwards until they got to $6 m, at which point negotiations broke off and the British hostage was murdered. A Swiss man remains in captivity.
For further reading, here’s a good new AP feature on AQIM, and if you haven’t already seen this old gem (+ interview) in the NYT, it’s a must-read right now. And for those who prefer to view AQIM as a tool of the grand Algero-American conspiracy to sully the good name of Algerian Salafi-Jihadism, here’s Jeremy Keenan doing his usual bit.