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Insights into Algerian parliamentary etiquette

November 9, 2009

The passing of Algerian politician Bachir Boumaezza has prompted El Khabar to print some juicy stuff from his still unpublished memoirs, which he had asked to be kept secret until after his death. It concerns his resignation from the post as speaker of the Senate in 2001, after conflicts with president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. According to El Khabar, the quarrel ended when Bouteflika’s supporters started using threats and mobster tactics – inside the Senate. A former parliamentarian, Djamaleddine Belhadj (RND), confirms Boumaezza’s version, and claims he has a videotape to prove it.

According to their story, a group among the “presidential third” – those parliamentarians directly appointed by president Bouteflika – began protesting the speaker, as the conflict between Boumaezza and Bouteflika heated up. In the days before his resignation, things got out of hand, and the Boutef appointees went on a political rampage to force his resignation.

They made quite the scene. Leila Aslaoui, a former government spokeswoman, set the tone by standing up in her seat and shouting at the speaker, “using her hand in a way understood to mean screw you” (as Belhadj puts it, adding that “she was quite impolite”). A bunch of retired generals joined in, one of them yelling, in French, “you can all go to hell!” Another screamed at Boumaezza that he would “get him naked”, echoing former FLN leader Ben Bella‘s words to his rival Benyoucef Ben Khedda in 1961: “I’ll pull your pants down, I’ll get you naked!”, while, to the delight of Freudians everywhere, he pulled out his service revolver.

After a day of this, Boumaezza broke down and had to be helped out of the chamber. He resigned, quit politics, and flew off to exile. Since then, parliament hasn’t caused Bouteflika any more problems, although I’m sure debates haven’t been quite as exciting either.

As an epilogue, this being Algeria, Boumaezza eventually patched things up with Boutef, and was recently invited back to celebrate the November 1 revolutionary anniversary. Then, just the other day, the president ordered his body brought home and gave him a lavish official funeral in the company of the rest of that venal elite – and there was much shedding of crocodiles’ tears.

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