National Debate vs. Base Committees: competing strategies for Algeria’s Movement.

In the following statement, the Productive Forces Union Confederation (COSYFOP) explain their strategy to ‘resolve the political crisis’: for the ‘military establishment’ to form a ‘popular government of acceptable national figures’ which would ‘supervise a national debate’ and presidential elections.

This contrasts sharply with the trajectory advocated by the Forces du pacte de l’Alternative démocratique (PAD), a grouping of progressive parties and civil-society groups, of which Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie (RCD) — ‘a center-left party that promotes democracy and secularism’, with ‘electoral support drawn from the Kabylie’ — is the single largest member [1].

In its 26 June ‘Pacte politique’, PAD, which includes the radical-left Parti socialiste des travailleurs, declared against presidential elections within the current constitution, and instead for a ‘sovereign constituent process’ (and observing that ‘today, real power is assumed and exercised entirely by the commander of the army’).

Later, on 9 September, the PAD issued a call for:

“Algerians to develop a foundational, sovereign process through the creation of base committees across the country (…) to give to people the possibility of choosing the form and the contest of the constitutions able to satisfy their demands and aspirations across every area.”

With a claim to having led nationwide strikes in March, can Cosyfop still mobilise workers en masse?; can the PAD’s constituent parties be cohered into a meaningful bloc?; can, indeed, ‘base committees’ be ‘called for’?

The following translation is less a remark on the groups’ strategy, than a demonstration of the differing political orientations amongst pro-Movement forces in Algeria today.

We would also like to thank the journalists of El Watan for their coverage of the PAD.

Productive Forces Union Confederation (Cosyfop)

Algiers, 06/08/2019

Political Statement

No to the Manipulation of the Morale of Young People!

Over the last years we have seen a new phenomenon, of Algerian youth deciding to flee to European shores in search of freedoms, democracy and respect for human rights – because the youth has known not only marginalisation from the Boutefliqa regime but even repression. Tens of thousands of them have fled Algeria and the circumstances – totally outside of their control – that they’ve endured, in the shadow of a regime corrupt in every sense.

Since the blessed popular movement began on 22 February 2019, the phenomena of ‘death boats’ and al-Harāqah [clandestine migration] has dramatically decreased [2]. Hope has returned to the insurgent youth in the streets for a better tomorrow for them and their country, especially with the already-legendary fall of the Boutefliqa regime, after the historic general strike launched by COSYFOP on the 10 March 2019 against the fifth mandate, a call heard by millions of the popular masses.

Immediately after the fall of the Boutefliqa regime, COSYFOP presented numerous initiatives for smooth and democratic transition of power within the constitutional framework, and towards organising honest and transparent presidential elections in order to select a leader [رائس قائد: lit. President-Chief] for the popular movement. Regretfully, our initiatives were met with rejection from parts of the movement, a rejection which has led to a highly dangerous political blockage, with the absence of a political will to engage in serious, inclusive, non-predetermined discussions.

Today, we return with an initiative for the Algerian people and the authorities, as a means to resolve the political crisis: To accelerate without delay the appointment of a consociational, popular government of acceptable national figures, which will have as its first aim the supervision of a national debate, through which a roadmap for democratic transition of power via presidential elections will be defined. It will also act as a guarantor for the popular movement to implement the output of the debate.

We have notice that the authorities are still charging ahead, as if they want to convince the international community as well as the popular masses that they want a debate and a solution to the crisis. However, the truth, we think, is the opposite. They are trying to gain more time to quell the popular movement, which, we guarantee, will take a decisive turn through November at the latest, if the authorities do not demonstrate their genuine intention to resolve the blockage.

We warn the remnants of the Boutefliqa regime against manipulating the feelings of young Algerians, who aspire to a state of law and freedoms in which their lives are protected, and to end the feudal age we have experienced during this rule of isolation. As such, we assure the international community generally and the Europe specifically that the price of this blockage – or indeed any undemocratic turn – will not be paid by Algerians alone. Europe will also pay the price, by taking the burden of the escape of millions of young people in search of freedoms that wicked international powers have denied them in their homelands.

We therefore urge the military establishment to push towards a democratic transition and organise presidential elections as soon as possible, starting with the rapid formation of a consociational [3], popular government, one of the popular movement, headed by a national figure accepted by the people. This government would be the start of a truce, and could supervise a debate that will end this dangerous blockage.

Until then, the activists of the Confederation will remain in the street and support the popular movement with all their strength, until we truly reach a social-democratic state that respects fundamental freedoms, law and international conventions.

The Youth … Demand … Effectiveness!

[1] See Lindsay J. Benstead’s entry in the the 2019 Conflict in the Modern Middle East: An Encyclopedia of Civil War, Revolutions, and Regime Change.

[2] The noun is derived from the root ḥaraqa, ‘[he] burnt’. In the Maghribi dialect, the ‘q’ tends to be replaced with a hard ‘g’. The image is of people ‘burning’ their documents.

[3] By which they appear to mean, ‘one that accounts for and “guarantees” ethnic difference at the constitutional and even parliamentary level’, à la Lebanon. See discussions of this concept in, particularly Rima Majed’s contribution.

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