Algeria: President more isolated than ever (U.S. Think-Thank)
The June 12 parliamentary election held in Algeria was supposed to rescue the regime from its crisis of legitimacy, but instead it reinforced its lack of legitimacy with the return of discredited political parties that had strongly supported former Pdt. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ousted in 2019, says the Washington-based Middle East Institute (MEI).
In an analysis penned by Robert Ford, a former U.S. ambassador to Algiers, the senior fellow at MEI says the poll has deepened further the isolation of Pdt. Tebboune whose remark that he didn’t care about the record low voter turnout reflects the distance between him and most of the Algerian public.
The election shows that the country is stuck between, on the one side, a political system backed by the army that rejects deep change and, on the other side, a population that has lost faith in the old system, adds Mr. Ford, citing the remark of a former Algerian politician Noureddine Boukrouh who wonders how long the Algerian army will continue to support an isolated Tebboune.
The huge street protest movement succeeded in securing a widespread boycott of the election, especially in the restive Berber-majority region, east of the capital, underlines the MEI expert, noting that the low voter turnout has enabled pro-government parties to capture a majority in the new Assembly.
The Algerian security forces have stepped up their harassment of independent local and foreign journalists. They have also repressed the Hirak street protests, arresting hundreds and sentencing dozens of activists to prison in order to deter more marches but the pro-democracy demonstrations continue every week, says Mr. Ford, who is also a senior fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.
Tebboune had called for the emergence of a new political class connected to Algeria’s civil society and distinct from the discredited old political system. Instead, the June 12 election results entrenched that old system which is facing challenging social, economic, and political crises, stresses the U.S. analysis.
With an expected drop in Algerian hydrocarbons output and exports, the government revenues and foreign exchange earnings will continue to hit rock bottom, while perennial problems of unemployment, housing shortages, and deteriorating purchasing power are getting worse and worse, explains Mr. Ford.
The Algerian government has failed to develop new sectors to reduce dependence on oil and gas by setting up a regulatory environment and business climate that attracts strong domestic and foreign investment. At the same time, the Covid pandemic has shown the limits and weakness of the public health care system and all public services, adds the MEI expert.
His analysis confirms the viewpoints of several others issued by international independent research institutes and foreign intelligence agencies. They all agree that the situation is alarming in Algeria and worry about the impact of an implosion of the country on the stability of the whole region.