Monday, 4 April 2011

Algeria: Belkhadem's 'dinosaur' views on constitutional reform

State Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, who is secretary general of the National Liberation Front ( FLN) and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's special envoy, has come to represent the most 'out of touch' or 'dinosaur' thinking within the regime. From a number of interviews this week we can get a fairly clear line on his thinking. In a statement which could be interpreted as patronising or simply 'out of touch', he said that the political initiatives of the opposition, which he did not specify, civil society organisations, which also went unnamed, and political figures, whom he didn't mention, “show healthy political practice and pluralism in Algeria”. It seems that he is saying that all the discussion about politics in Algeria is indicative of the fact that it is in a state of good health. In short, it doesn't need changing.

Coming on the current discussion about political and constitutional change, Belkhadem was quoted as saying that the FLN , is against the idea of the dissolution of the parliament and early general elections. One fairly obvious reason for that, which Belkhadem didn't mention, is that the FLN would have a good chance of being sent to electoral oblivion.

In a clear reflection of his essentially anti-democratic views, he was also quoted as saying that he rejected establishing a constitutional council that would gather representatives of political forces in the country. He tried to clarify this statement by saying that such proposals would deny all the achievements made since the independence in 1962. It is, of course, very difficult to pin-point just what achievements the country has made since 1962.

Given its huge natural wealth, for which the government cannot really take credit, many would argue that the regime has turned Algeria into the region's most misgoverned, corrupt and repressive country. And yet, almost in the next phrase, Belkhadem said that "we endorse the proposal of proceeding to a radical revision to the constitution." The key word is 'radical'.

It seems that Belkhadem's and the FLN 's understanding of 'radical' is not what most people would have in mind.

If, however, there was any hint in any of the above statements that Belkhadem might see some urgency in the need to act on Algeria's current political situation, it was clearly ruled out in an interview he gave last Monday to the Arabic daily Wakt El Djazair when he said that constitutional reform could be looked at after the legislation and local elections of 2012. Some might think that that could be a little too late!

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

© 2011 Menas Associates

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