Monday, 9 January 2012

Algeria: Soltani's MSP to leave presidential alliance

Bouguera Soltani, leader of the MSP (Islamist Movement for Society of Peace), or Hamas in Arabic, is hoping to take advantage of the success of other Islamist parties in other North African countries that have held elections this last year. He has therefore withdrawn his party from the ruling coalition or 'presidential alliance', as it is known, that comprises the FLN, the RND of Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, and his own MSP. The final decision was made by the MSP's shoura (advisory council) at its meeting at the end of December.

Soltani says that he wants to press for constitutional reform to limit the powers of the president. He is on record as saying that he does not believe that Bouteflika is serious about reform and has warned that voters would snub the ballot box in large numbers if political reform is not implemented.

He said: “The regime is not serious when it talks about political reforms. It continues to rule the country as it has always done... People continue to believe that the ballot is not the way for change….. Without serious reforms, the social front will remain unstable.”

Most commentators believe that Soltani's real reason for leaving the coalition, at least for the moment, as being to avoid losing votes in the upcoming elections, or, as he would no doubt word it, to attract more of the country's Islamist voters. His problem is that his party's membership of the unpopular ruling coalition, along with his own association with corruption scandals, could result in a collapse in the MSP vote as the Islamists support alternative parties.

As things stand at the moment, the MSP's departure from the ruling coalition would not strip the government of its majority. Currently, however, the party has a big following among conservative Algerians. Whether they will continue to support the party in the spring election is questionable. Soltani therefore sees his best chance of retaining support as being by trying to distance himself from the coalition. Few Algerians are likely to fall for it and most opinion is that the MSP vote is likely to collapse.

The MSP was founded in 1990 by Mahfoud Nahnah and Algerian members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nahnah, who died in 2003, changed the party's name from Hamas. The party condemned the 1992 coup that led to the annulment of the 1992 elections, but did join the government coalition in 2004. The MSP currently has four ministers in minor posts.

The FLN General-Secretary, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, is on record as saying that there will be no Islamist tidal wave in the elections and that altogether the Islamists will not win more than 35 per cent of the vote.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

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