22/05/2012

The “new” Algeria and the Arab Spring in failure?

Legislative elections in Algeria of last 10th May, valid for the election of 462 members of the People’s National Assembly, saw the participation of 42.36% of the total population. The National Liberation Front (FLN) won 220 seats and, added to the 68 won by the National Rally for Democracy, formed a wing of the FLN, we obtain 288 seats of 462. Islamic lists, however, failed to rise to power: the Green Algeria Alliance (composed of the Movement of Society for Peace, the Islamic Renaissance Movement and the Movement for National Reform) won only 48 seats and the Justice and Development Party hasn’t had the expected success, gained only 7 seats. However, despite the presence of many international observers, lists Islamic denounced irregularities in the election process. If this was true, the political situation in the North-African State could degenerate even if this hypothesis can be ruled out for now. Why?

It should be noted that the Algerian State, with its considerable hydrocarbon reserves, has extinguished, during the last twenty years, its external debt but, at the same time, has failed to raise living standards of the population: in particular, the energy sector, which generates huge profits but also requires strong investments, doesn’t guarantee the same positive impact on employment. The State needs a program aimed at growing of a diversified economy. And in recent years, the population has openly expressed his displeasure, manifesting his displeasure on social issues rather than political, as the increase in consumer staples and employment crisis. In short, these disputes had anticipated a few months the Arab Spring, which in 2011 will arise in the Maghreb and the Middle East.

The Arab Spring, consequently, hasn’t “touched” Algeria and the reasons for this are various. First, the Islamic question in Algeria hasn’t yet taken shape alarming because the Islamic parties are currently adequately integrated into the national political system and the memories of the 1990s are still present in the Algerian memory. In fact, twenty-four years ago Algeria has faced a kind of Arab Spring, while its population, tired of three decades of single party (FLN), took to the streets attacking the offices, departments and setting fire to symbols of the state. These events, dating back to October 1988 was the beginning of insurgencies that have degenerated into civil war in the 1990s, which claimed the lives of over 150,000 people and the disappearance of thousands of people. The Algerian population hasn’t forgotten these events and it seems obvious to assume that, after a decade of civil war, the Islamic don’t collect the expected success. It also justifies the fact that popular protests in Algeria haven’t turned into “revolution”, as happened in Egypt and Tunisia: it seems that the Algerians have preferred not to exacerbate social conflict, leaving the events go off.

However, on last 16th May there was the first terrorist attack made after the recent elections: a mariner of the Coast Guard is died on board a vehicle, following the explosion of a remote-controlled bomb, near the town of Azzefoun. Is this the beginning of a new civil conflict? Does the Algerian population is now ready to put behind the tragic past and to face this new challenge, based on the need to implement a process of democratic reforms and modernization of the country? In Tunisia, all was started by a man who set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid. We know the story that followed.


GIACOMO MORABITO

University of Messina