(chant heard in all the mass demonstrations across Algeria on 13 December, the day after the sham election)
“More than 400 peaceful demonstrators were arrested in Oran. Police brutality, repression, humiliation, beatings, language abuse, and more. The peaceful demonstrators in Oran were subjected to unspeakable violence on Thursday, 12 December. On this day of an ‘election’ that was rejected widely and denounced by the Algerians, the police implemented practices that we thought were a thing of the past. Why did the police attack women and children who were protesting along with their families? … Worse yet, in Haizer, in the wilaya [department] of Bouira, the police fired rubber bullets. Three people were seriously injured and lost an eye. More than 250 others also escaped with injuries.”
Such was the on-the-ground report by the editorial staff of DZ Vidéo-Information-Décryptage.
The images of the repression in Oran were shown all over the country and have provoked thousands of messages of protest and solidarity.
Throughout the day of 12 December, as in previous days, mass demonstrations and general strike action continued in several cities and villages against a presidential election that was widely rejected and condemned by the vast majority of the Algerian people. In some villages paralysed by the general strike, workers and youth stormed polling stations and confiscated the stuffed ballot papers, organizing themselves the active boycott of elections that they described as “illegitimate“.
Throughout the day of 12 December, blatant evidence of falsification and ballot box stuffing organised by the regime to boost voter turnout made the rounds on all the social media. Announcing a 39.83 percent turnout, the regime quickly proceeded to proclaim “its” results: the election of Abdelmadjid Tebboune [see below].
The Algerian people’s response was not long in coming. During the traditional Friday marches the following day, the masses expressed their rejection of the president: “Your president does not represent me” was one of the chants repeated everywhere. “Your appointed Raïs [chief – editor’s note] is not ours!” “Illegitimate!”
On 14 December, the self-proclaimed president promised, in a press conference, “the lifting of injustices suffered by the citizens“, “the continuation of the fight against corruption”, and the formation of a government composed of ‘young women and young men who will surprise you’“. Above all, he announced the following: “I am addressing the Hirak [the popular movement – editor’s note], which I have repeatedly described as blessed, to offer it my hand so that we can initiate a serious dialogue in the service of Algeria“.
On the same day, the leadership of the Front of Socialist Forces (FFS) — the organisation which, although in crisis, represents the Socialist International in Algeria and is the pivot of the grouping of parties titled “Pole of the Democratic Alternative” — adopted a resolution refusing to recognise the electoral result, but affirming that “the FFS is the only organisation that has been able to make a significant contribution to the development of the country, adding:
“Only a true democratic transition and a transparent and serious national dialogue with all the representative political actors and those of civil society who have mobilised in the popular and associative movement will be able to agree on a consensual platform for ending the crisis on the political, economic, social, environmental and cultural levels, with a timetable and instruments for monitoring and implementation, with a view to the election of the constituent National Assembly“.
But who can believe, many activists ask, including those of the FFS, that a true sovereign Constituent Assembly, which by definition has the task of sweeping away the old regime, will emerge from a “dialogue” with that very same regime?
— Dominique Ferré
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Tebboune, Portrait of an “Illegitimate” President
The day after the announcement of the results of the 12 December “election”, millions of Algerians took to the streets on Friday the 13th and affirmed their pledge not to recognize this “illegitimate” president. Who is Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was decreed president at the conclusion of what millions of Algerians consider a “sham election” on 12 December?
Like the other four candidates, Tebboune is a man of the old regime, considered one of the closest allies of his “strong man”, Chief of Staff Gaïd Salah. He was also a member of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s entourage. Less than a year ago, he was one of the strongest supporters of the “fifth mandate” against which millions of people took to the streets in protest in February 2019.
Tebboune was Minister of Local Government, then Minister of Housing and Trade on several occasions since 2000. In May 2017, he was appointed Prime Minister by then-President Bouteflika. When the fall in the price of oil deprived the budget of its resources, Tebboune made a commitment to an IMF delegation in Algiers to speed up the “rationalization of public spending”. One of his top advisers proclaimed:
“Let’s not sell the Algerian people utopian dreams. Algeria will experience budgetary tensions between 2017 and 2020, hence the importance of renewed governance, shared sacrifice and an urgent reorientation of socio-economic policy“.
Tebboune’s government did not last more than two and a half months. His dismissal, after a period of public humiliation, was organised by the man who, behind the scenes, made and brought down governments: Said Bouteflika, the brother of the ex-presidnent. The reason for the dismissal: Tebboune had dared to oppose, very timidly, the powerful “oligarch” Ali Haddad, leader of the Forum of Business Leaders (FCE). Today, the regime’s internal “settling of accounts” has put Haddad and Said Bouteflika in prison, while Gaïd Salah has hand-picked Tebboune, who has been dubbed “an opponent of the oligarchs”.
But Tebboune is himself “under the watchful eye” of the regime’s leaders. His son Khaled is being held in pre-trial detention in connection with the 701 kilograms of cocaine seized in May 2018 in the port of Oran, while a few weeks ago one of his relatives, the businessman Alilat, was arrested for “corruption”.
While Macron only “took note” of the announcement of Tebboune’s “victory”, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, in a statement from the U.S. embassy in Algeria, said, “We congratulate the Algerian people on the recent presidential election. … We look forward to working with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to promote security and prosperity in the region“.
“Illegitimate”, “your president does not represent me!” was the deafening reply of the Algerian people across the country.