By Souad Sbai
Algeria. Some people called it a “joke”. In fact, the plebiscitary nomination of the Muslim Brother Slimane Chenine as the new president of the National Assembly is not surprising since, from the beginning of the crisis, people have been warned about the possible welding of the strong Algerian powers against the democratic protest: military , Bouteflikian civilians and Islamists.
Given the intransigence shown by the protesters in claiming the exit of all members of the old regime, the latest one appealed to the Muslim Brotherhood to unblock the existing political-institutional impasse and proceed with the election of Bouteflika’s successor to the Presidency of the Republic.
On July 2, Mouad Bouchareb’s resignation as president of the National Assembly – he is a member of the National Liberation Front, Bouteflika’s party – was approved as a concession to popular requests, but it already included the conditions of the deception that supposedly was set up after 9 days, with Chenine’s election.
At the age of 47, Chenine is the youngest president that the lower house of parliament has ever had and he is the first one to not come from the FLN (National Liberation Front) that, together with its representatives, continues to emphasize the “beau geste” by granting an opposition deputy to sit in the most important seat of the Assembly, because “the interest of the country comes first”.
The display of institutional responsibility, however, is a cover too small to hide the real intentions that have pushed all the members of the FLN, except one abstention, to converge on Chenine’s nomination, questioned, on the other hand, by the democratic and reformist parties , excluded from the vote because they had previously withdrawn from the Assembly as a sign of solidarity with the protest. Chenine is the leader of a coalition of three fundamentalist parties that refer to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fiercest protagonists of the Algerian civil war. Despite having only 15 seats out of 462, these parties are well established at the territorial level and have long been waiting for the right opportunity to be co-opted within the establishment and the institutions.
The formal support for demonstrations against Bouteflika aimed to take advantage of the possible opportunities to achieve a political ascent that people could have provided, following the style of the fake-Arab Spring, despite the objective of replacing Bouteflika’s secular dictatorship that is supported the military to achieve a fundamentalist dictatorship that differs profoundly from the democratic aspirations of the Fridays of protest.
At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood patiently waited for the “dialogue between the deaf”, whose protagonist was the old regime and the protest, until it collapsed definitively after the postponement of the presidential elections that should have been held on July 4. The no issued by the protest to the proposed dialogue without the participation of the military and the representatives of the institutions, promoted by the Bouteflikan ad interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, promoted the convergence between the old regime and the Islamist component, in order not to abandon the National Assembly.
The scenario that now looms is that of defining a new date for the presidential elections; Until that day Bensalah will remain in his position despite the fact that his time is over and despite the fact that the Algerians continue to ask for his exit scene. The elections will be carried out with a new electoral law approved by the current National Assembly, where there are no representatives of the protest. With Chenine’s nomination, the agreement between the FLN and the Muslim Brotherhood – that will agree the figure to be crowned as the next Algerian president – was ratified.
The process is managed behind the scenes, but not too much, by the Army Chief of Staff, Ahmed Gaid Salah. Having verified the impossibility of continuing to support Bouteflika, he decided to resign in order to please the Algerians temporarily. Later he acted as the guarantor of the application of the constitutional procedures for the appointment of a new Head of State, in order to manage the transition in a favorable way to the position of power of the military.
Hence Bensalah’s investiture; he was president of the Senate and as ad interim president of the Republic established the holding of new elections in accordance with the calendar established by the Constitution, bringing out a sweetened version of Bouteflika from the polls. But the protest has rejected this perspective, accusing the general of wanting to establish a military regime.
Saleh’s answer was not long in coming. The general described as “traitors” those who oppose the Army, gave the green light to the agreement with the Muslim Brotherhood and therefore, to Chenine’s nomination, and intensified the repression, with arrests and beatings on the occasion of the 20th Friday of protest on July 5, the day Algeria declared independence from France.
The twenty-first Friday protest on July 12 saw the streets of the capital, Algiers, as always crowded by tens of thousands of protesters, who chanted their slogans against the general and against the old regime. However, a new regime is emerging that sees the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, that is being used by the civil-military establishment to survive and that continues to trample on the rights and freedoms of the Algerians.