Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Algeria: The Essence of Popular Sovereignty
Workers Party of Algeria leader Louisa Hanoune.
[reprinted from Fraternité, biweekly newspaper of the Workers Party (PT) of Algeria -- May 1-15, 2014 -- Issue No. 61]

Editorial by Louisa Hanoune

The PT will issue a judgment on the government's action plan, which will be submitted shortly to the deputies in the National Assembly, as well as on the draft text concerning constitutional reform, in relation to both the merits of the text and the approach to be adopted for its approval.

The PT will advocate for the establishment of the Second Republic -- with its democratic, economic and social content to redress the social insecurities and the deficit in democracy, starting with a true representation of the people, to immunize the nation against the dangers of dislocation which are still at our doorstep.

Evidence of this are the words of the U.S. ambassador to Algeria, who just recently insisted that the Algerian customs system, the banking system and the laws on the transfer of dividends, not to mention the 51/49% Rule [mandating Algerian majority ownership and control over all foreign investments] are all obstacles that must be removed. Taking its cue from the U.S. ambassador, the European Union is now demanding "the repeal of the 51/49% Rule as a condition for the entry of Algeria in the World Trade Organization."

But even more serious are the words of Algeria's Minister of Commerce, who stated that he has been mandated to accelerate the country's entry into the WTO, a process that involves undermining the nation's social and economic gains, starting with the 51/49% Rule.

In response to this statement, the secretary general of the UGTA [General Union of Algerian Workers - Ed] warned: "The WTO should not be an obsession or a goal. Membership in this organization is just one perspective; the WTO is not even a reference in terms of the organization of world trade." He went on to state that "the priority must be to build a strong national economy."

It is precisely to prevent going backwards, that the PT's Central Committee decided to organize a national mobilization to defend the socio-economic conquests, starting with the 51/49% Rule, and to allow the people's voice to be heard concerning the constitutional reform so that the people themselves can define the form and content of the institutions they need to exercise their sovereignty and to put forward policies in accordance with their own needs.

This requires holding free elections to a real National People's Assembly (NPA) of deputies who are answerable to the people and thus revokable -- deputies who will designate a government responsible to the NPA. This is the essence of sovereignty.

-- May 15, 2014

* * * * * * * * * *

Algeria's Presidential Election of April 2014:

The People Defeated the Plans to Dislocate the Country

In the aftermath of last April's presidential elections, a few writers published commentaries in the national press in which they asked if, in fact, the country had been endangered?

Were the threats of dislocation real, or were they just a figment of the imagination?

And even if there may have been threats, weren't they exaggerated?, others asked.

It is worth returning here to the political climate that prevailed in the country in recent months. Recognizing the importance of the presidential election -- and given the chaos that surrounds our country, with more than 6,000 km of borders with countries plagued by war, occupation and dislocation, and given the fact that the Algeria has been targeted for years by the Great Powers -- the PT congress decided to participate in the presidential election with its own candidate because it could not remain a spectator at a crucial time for the future of the country.

For this the PT insisted that the presidential elections were and should remain an Algerian question.

Not fearing any political discussion, and willing to confront our positions with the facts, we ask the following question:

Was the PT right or wrong when it decided to carry out a campaign that put the spotlight on the need to preserve the sovereignty and integrity of the country?

Indeed, most party activists could not recall an election with as many dangers of dislocation. Pressures from all quarters -- both external and internal -- weighed heavily on the country.

In fact, even before the Constitutional Council had announced the names of the official presidential candidates, a large number of domestic and foreign media had published interviews and reports that reduced the presidential election to a battle till the end between the outgoing president, A. Bouteflika, and his former head of government, A. Benflis.

This "bipolarity" -- created from scratch -- brings to mind similar situations experienced on the African continent that ended in a bloodbath and a foreign military intervention (Cote d'Ivoire ... ).

The very date he submitted his presidential candidacy to the Constitutional Council, A. Benflis, former Chief of Staff of Bouteflika and head of government for 3 years (1999-2003), delivered a speech inside the chamber of the institution (when all the other candidates gave their speeches outside) where he used a threatening tone and warned the domestic and foreign media about the massive fraud that he would be subjected to -- and this even before his application had been processed.

Benflis, who after his failed presidential bid in 2004 attempted to transform Algiers into a new Tbilisi -- a reference to the "Orange Revolution" that led to a war in Georgia -- threatened throughout this recent presidential campaign to plunge the country into chaos if he were not declared the winner of the presidential election.

The Algerian people -- traumatized by a decade of terrorism and civil war -- wer thus invited to choose between, one the one hand, a candidate who promised to reverse all the socio-economic gains (revising the 2009 laws on commerce, abandoning the 51/49% Rule, increasing flexibility of labor relations, regionalizing the state, ending state subsidies, and promoting forced inter-municipalization . . . ), and, on the other hand, chaos.

In this campaign, moreover, the imperialist capitals were not neutral.

The PT and its candidate, Louisa Hanoune, carried out a totally independent campaign under the slogan "Audacity to Found the Second Republic." Indeed, the PT put forward a political alternative by offering a break with the one-party system which was, in a certain sense, represented by the two main candidates: A.Bouteflika and A.Benflis.

But in the face of the open pledges by A. Benflis to meet the demands of imperialism, the PT could in no way place both major candidates on the same footing.

The PT -- which contributed to the adjustments made in the nation's socio-economic policy by A. Bouteflika since 2009 (51/ 49% Rule, halt and reversal of privatizations, right to eminent domain [pre-emption],  renationalization of multinationals, ... ) -- and while keeping its fingers clearly pointed to the shortcomings, policy contradictions and failures of A. Bouteflika (employment policy, foreign trade with the Algeria-European Union Accord, request to join the WTO, ... ) warned the people about the dangers of the program of A. Benflis that threatened to cause the "Arab Spring" in our country and undermine the gains made by the people.

The PT conducted a vigorous political campaign, where all the questions pointing to the end of the one-party system were put forth with courage and clarity. From this point of view, the PT advanced the debate on several issues.

Fully attached to the conquests of the Algerian people, and showing a determination to regain all the political and socio-economic rights, the candidate of the PT and her representatives also warned about the dangers that threatened the country and thereby helped the people to mobilize against the dislocation of the country at the time of the presidential election.

The unexpected arrival, in full election campaign, of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the importance of the presidential election not only for the Algerian people but also for those who sought to use these elections for purposes contrary to the interests of the nation.

Unexpected Visit from John Kerry

This visit, which has intrigued many observers, was officially presented as a visit that had been planned a long time ago with topics related to bilateral relations and "security" in the Sahel region. But many questions still remain unanswered.

Was this a trip to support Bouteflika and his presidential campaign, as some argued, or was this a form of blackmail against the Algerian government, which thus far has rejected any deals that would affect or undermine national sovereignty?

These legitimate questions remain unanswered, all the more so given the the diplomatic tradition of sending a message of congratulations to a President-elect at the time of his/her swearing in was not upheld by the U.S. authorities, who failed to send such a statement to A. Bouteflika.

Adding to this scenario, on the very eve of the arrival of John Kerry in Algiers, an important member of A. Benflis' presidential campaign team -- former Finance Minister Ali Benouari -- sent an open and public letter to the President of the United States of America, the President of the European Commission and the Secretary General of the UN in which he begged all of them to intervene in Algeria. Yet no one can deny the major responsibility of the U.S. government, the UN and the European Union in the hardships and misfortune that followed their military interventions in Libya, the Central African Republic, Mali, or their interference in Syria and Egypt.

Hence, the close ally of A. Benflis called on the leaders of the UN, the EU and United States to push for "the advent of a democratic regime in Algeria." This was necessary, he said, "because the Algerian people are prepared . . . to take to the streets, following the elections, to express . . . their commitment to political change."

This scenario was defeated by the Algerians. Those who voted as well as those who abstained refused to follow the adventurers of all kinds.

Another former candidate (and ex-general of the National People's Armed Forces), himself a staunch supporter of U.S. policy in the region, called upon the U.S. Secretary of State in a letter addressed to him on the eve of his arrival in Algiers, to intervene to impose "a transition to a democratic system" and declared his agreement with "the new policy that has been defined by His Excellency the President of the United States in May 2011." That policy consists of "promoting reform across the region and supporting transitions to democracy."

Everyone can see, based on the facts, what these "transitions" mean coming from the mouths of American leaders in relation to Libya or Egypt. This is nothing other than chaos.

On top of this confused and most uncertain situation, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs came to Algiers during the election campaign and was even allowed to "sensitize" the country's authorities to amend the 51/49% Rule.

The French, Spanish, and Middle Eastern TV and media stations waged a hateful campaign against the Algerian people -- with a summons, a mandatory summons, to elect A. Benflis as the successor of A. Bouteflika in the name of a certain idea of "political alternance."

Alongside this external and internal media campaign, agitations took place in different parts of the country.

In Ghardaia blood flowed anew. The separatist movement (Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie) organized demonstrations to call the local population not to vote. Opposition marches to the "fourth mandate" of A. Bouteflika were also held in Algiers and called for the cancellation of elections. Voices even called on the army to intervene to stop the electoral process.

Forty-eight hours before the voting, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement calling on French nationals to avoid visiting Algeria as "violent protests" were expected at the time of the presidential elections.

Algerians also remember vividly the reinforcement of U.S. military bases in Spain and Italy to deal with "the risk of unrest in northern Africa."

The last days of the campaign were expected to be violent, foreshadowing an apocalyptic future for the country.

"Me or Chaos"

Indeed, every day with a more and more threatening tone, A. Benflis, the former head of government who defended publicly the right of A. Benouari to call for imperialist interference in Algeria, said in several meetings that on April 17, there were two choices: "me or chaos."

Fear swept over the entire population in the country. Grocery stores were stormed by the citizens, who stacked up on semolina, sugar, oil, pasta, dried fruit. Motorists rushed to petrol pumps.

Strongly rejecting a return to the past (where chaos and the reversal of the socio-economic conquests were the order of the day) while refusing the "bipolarity" that the media and internal and external forces sought to impose, the Algerians who took part in the vote chose to eliminate the threat posed by A . Benflis, by ensuring a landslide victory for A. Bouteflika.

The large gap in the vote totals between the incumbent president and his former head of government undercut the campaign by A. Benflis and his supporters, who had pledged they would not remain silent if their candidate was not declared the winner the evening of April 17.

A Refuge Vote

This vote of refuge, which has put off momentarily the dangers that threaten the country, also immunized the country because for the first time since 1995 an election took place without significant signs of fraud. More generally what was expressed in this election by those who voted or abstained is that the Algerian people defeated all the plans of imperialism intended to use the presidential election to create chaos, dislocate the country and pave the way for foreign military intervention .

The nation passed the exam successfully on April 17, and the PT is proud to have contributed with a political campaign that allowed people to understand what was at stake with the presidential election .

The desire for a real change, for a renewal, for a rupture with all practices of one-party system -- concentrated in commitments made by Louisa Hanoune, candidate of the PT -- has not gone away; it has merely been deferred. These aspirations will arise with new strength in the weeks and months ahead, and the PT will be at the forefront of these struggles.

-- R.Y.T.

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