Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Algeria: ANC holds fractious first meeting

The newly-formed Alliance Nationale pour le Changement (ANC), grouping former prime minister Ahmed Benbitour with the Islamist party El Islah, has held its first political meeting on 18th March in Algiers. According to a report in Liberté, the meeting was “outrageously dominated” by Islamists, including ex-Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) leader Ali Belhadj, who was invited and “received a hero's welcome”.

Other leading figures in the Alliance include former Rassemblement national démocratique (RND) secretary general Tahar Benbaibeche and Abdelkader Merbah of the Rassemblement pour la Republique (RPR). Benbitour told those present that the objective of the alliance was “to change the system in its entirety and not only specific individuals”, and that this had to take place “peacefully or in chaos”. He added that it was time to “put an end to this façade of democracy and other formal reforms aimed only at satisfying the great powers to the detriment of the Algerian people”.

A defector from the Mouvement de la Société pour la Paix (MSP), a presidential alliance party, called on Islamists and secularists to work “hand in hand” to bring about change in Algeria. Judging from the reception to the ANC's first meeting in the Algerian press, this will be no simple task, as the level of mistrust of the intentions of former Islamists such as Belhadj still runs high.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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