While the popular Hirak movement is banned by the authorities for – officially – coronavirus, Algerians are called to vote this Sunday, November 1 for a constitutional referendum. Objective of this reform, President Tebboune’s flagship project? “Translate the will for radical change into constitutional articles” in order to “build the new Republic”, assures the latter, currently hospitalized in Germany.
Elected head of state nearly a year after Bouteflika’s departure, but with only 40% participation, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, supported by the military (pillars of the Algerian regime), seeks with this vote to legitimize his power. The date chosen – November 1 – is for this reason symbolic, the “Red All Saints” of 1954 marking the beginning of the Algerian war of independence. The president claims to take into account the demands of the street, speaking of the “blessed Hirak”, and having it inscribed in black and white in the preamble of the Constitution.
Concretely, it is a question of putting in place a semi-presidential system, inspired by Portugal and France, where the powers of the Head of State would be counterbalanced by Parliament. “It is impossible for a single person to appropriate power and act as he pleases and according to his moods”, summarizes Tebboune, targeting Bouteflika – of whom he was however minister on several occasions.
“A constitution of a pharaoh”
Will this be enough to convince Algerians who had taken to the streets of Algiers and other cities by the hundreds of thousands from February 2019, chasing the old president and maintaining pressure on the regime, until confinement? linked to the Covid-19 pandemic? “It’s a semblance of change, a cosmetic response, not a therapy against the ills of the country”, judges the geopolitologist Bertrand Badie, author of “Inter-socialities, the world is no longer geopolitical” (CNRS Editions). “But the great Hirak demand is a total change of system.”
The text does provide for limiting the number of parliamentary and presidential terms (Bouteflika wanted to run for a 5th one!), And envisages the possibility of cohabitation between a head of state and an elected majority of the opposite tendency … But that makes people smile in Algeria so much this scenario seems unreal, the political life remaining more or less under the control of the civil-military regime. “It’s a pharaoh’s constitution,” lashes out a lawyer, a figure of the Hirak.
“The whole stake lies in the participation rate,” resumes Bertrand Badie. If he is as weak as in the presidential election, it will be a negative marker for Tebboune … who will not fail to invoke the fear of the Covid-19 contagion to make up a setback. »What if the rate greatly exceeds 40%? “In this case, I will ask to check closely the truth of the figures”, is wary an Algerian journalist accustomed to “manipulations” of power.
90 “prisoners of conscience”
The repressive climate does not help restore confidence. Almost every week, there is a trial against Hirak activists, figures such as journalist Khaled Drareni recently sentenced to two years in prison or anonymous. A simple post on Facebook can be worth to its author of the lawsuits, and the National Committee for the release of the prisoners lists 90 “prisoners of conscience” – term preferred to “political prisoner” to underline that the Hirak is not the movement of ‘a party but brings together all the components of society. The Franco-Algerian writer Kamel Daoud calls on Abdelmadjid Tebboune to a presidential pardon to release them on November 1.
In addition to the organization of powers, the constitutional reform also addresses other areas. The Tamazight Berber language would thus see its status reinforced, which makes the parties of the Islamic movement squeak, seeing it as a possible questioning of the preponderance of Arabic, the language of the Koran. Other notable points, a facilitation of foreign investments and, a big first, the possibility for the Algerian army to intervene outside its borders. “Algeria wants to play a role of regional power, capable of solving the problems in the Sahel in particular”, analyzes Badie.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr