Monday, 12 December 2011

Algeria: National Assembly votes to maintain two-decade ban on FIS

As anticipated, the National Assembly (parliament) voted on 6th December to maintain the two-decade ban on the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS). This will ensure that the FIS is unable to participate in next March's parliamentary elections and, therefore, remains locked out of power. The FIS, it will be recalled, won the vast bulk of the seats in the December 1991 elections but the army stepped in to cancel the second round of voting in January 1992 in an effective coup d'├ętat which brought the current regime to power.

The National Assembly vote did not actually mention the FIS by name. It merely upheld the ban on “any person responsible for the exploitation of religion having led to the national tragedy (civil war) from founding a party or participating in its creation”.

The continuation of the ban was widely expected, having been recommended by the presidential commission that was established in the spring. The Assembly also approved an amendment that stipulated a ban being extended to all persons who have “participated in terrorist acts and who refuse to recognise their responsibility in the conception, the preparation and the execution of a policy in favour of violence against institutions of the state”.

In Doha, the FIS' exiled veteran leader, Abassi Madani, said the decision “violated international conventions on political and civic rights”. He said that he was going to take the matter to the UN and other international bodies. Back in Algiers, his deputy, Ali Belhadj said that he would demonstrate publicly against the ruling. He and his brother, Abdelhamid Belhadj, were both taken into custody for a number of hours, before being released.

As a number of commentators remarked, the government had placed itself in a 'lose-lose' situation. Having spent the last few years telling the world that “the FIS doesn't represent anyone”, why did they feel it necessary to ban it? On the other hand, if they had allowed it to stand in the March 2012 elections there is the distinct probability that it would once again have won.

As it is, most Algerians will almost certainly boycott next year's election. Although the government will no doubt falsify the turnout figures, as it has done in every election this century, the 'real' turnout is anticipated at only being between 15 and 25 per cent.

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

© 2011 Menas Associates

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