No to 12 June elections! A statement from the Algerian PST.

The following statement was given by Algeria’s Parti Socialiste des Travailleurs (PST) on 6 April

The context is the resumption in mid-February of the ‘Movement’ (al-Hirak), and President Tebboune’s mid-March announcement of legislative elections on 12 June. 

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Though our party has already publicly expressed our political criticism and rejection of the legislative elections that this de facto regime has imposed for 12 June, the National Directorate has further decided on the official non-participation of the PST in the election. 

Whilst the PST has participated in numerous votes since 1991 in the hope of seizing the electoral platform, we have no illusions about the possibility of achieving the social and democratic change to which the popular masses aspire through the electoral process, without the prior construction of a favourable political balance of force across society. These legislative elections appear at a moment when the Popular Hirak, whatever its flaws and limits, has, since its return on 22 February, posed a choice – between the popular camp and that of the regime and its plans. Huge, popular demonstrations in cities across the country are again contesting the regime’s legitimacy. As with the 2002 elections, which appeared immediately after the popular “Black Spring” of 2001, our party does not for one second hesitate to reject the legislative masquerade and to participate, as always, in the construction of the political and social mobilisations and struggles of our people. [1]

For the PST, more than any previous consultation, these legislative elections are already disqualified from being considered “democratic” due to the force of the regime’s repression and attacks against freedoms. Gestures of appeasement have been limited to pardoning a few dozen political detainees, as quickly contradicted by new arrests and the police and judiciary’s harassment of militants, journalists, even ordinary protestors. Worse, there have been cases of torture and rape by the security services, as publically denounced by former detainees. The basic democratic freedoms and rights – of expression, of protest, opinion, organisation, striking, et cetera – are routinely violated. The public media remains closed to any criticism of the regime, and their platforms continue to be monopolised exclusively by its representatives – by those who have shown their allegiance. The Electoral Law, endorsed by the same dissolved parliament that the regime [i.e. Tebboune] has itself described as corrupt and illegitimate, constitutes another hindrance to an honest, democratic election [2]. One example: more than any previous electoral law, the new voting system intentionally depoliticizes the vote by making it a choice between candidates on the same party list, rather than between political programmes [i.e., an “open list” system]. Relatedly, the alleged parity between men and women – should this not be discussed? The public financing of certain candidates and not others, thereby legalising an inequality of opportunity – is this not a ruse to fund a future parliamentary majority? [3]

‘Barzakh’ (2021), by Lydia Ourahmane.

For the PST, these elections are manoeuvres that aim, like the presidential election of December 2019, and the constitutional referendum of November 2020, to institutionalise the regime’s continuity. Beyond the re-appointment of various figures who openly supported the 5th mandate for Bouteflika, the regime’s continuity is visible most of all at the social and economic level: the same liberal “reforms” to privatize the economy and national wealth, particularly the public banks and our natural wealth, enabling a handful of oligarchs and multinationals to snatch them up; the same anti-social policies to reduce wages, withdraw subsidies on basic products, reduce social payments, put free healthcare up for debate, and force our youth and entire sections of the country into unemployment and social precarity – in sum, the same neo-liberal choices which led to the economic and social disaster we are currently living through, and which generated the underlying reasons for the rejection of the regime and the popular uprising that was the Hirak of February 2019. 

For the PST, the re-building of popular sovereignty passes through a sovereign constituent assembly, one that represents the democratic and social aspirations of the majority of the people – workers, unemployed, women, small peasants, and all the destitute. From this perspective, the PST calls for an urgent convergence between the mighty popular movement which constitutes the Hirak and the various social struggles, particularly through the immediate establishment across the whole country of self-organisation at the base of society, allowing the emergence of a democratic, anti-liberal and anti-imperialist alternative. 

Freedom for all the political prisoners, and prisoners of conscience!

End all blocks on democratic freedoms! 

For the respect for union freedoms!

No to the continuity of the authoritarian, anti-social liberal regime! 

For the election of a Sovereign Constituent Assembly! 

[1] ‘ … notre parti n’hésite pas une seconde pour rejeter la mascarade des législatives et pour participer comme à l’accoutumée à construire le camp des luttes et des mobilisations politiques et sociales de notre peuple.’

[2] The Movement’s dégagiste slogans were directed not only against Bouteflika but also the wider May 2017 parliament, as dissolved by Tebboune on 1 March 2021 as a step towards the June legislative elections. 

The Electoral Law in question was generated by a special commission and passed by presidential decree on 10 March, after having been ‘endorsed’ (avalisée) by the various parties of that same May 2017 parliament. 

As to Tebboune’s own criticism of that parliament, when announcing its dissolution in mid-February, he said “I decided to dissolve the current National People’s Assembly [lower house], and to pass directly to elections free of corrupt money and open to the youth”. 

[3] Note that connection between the question of gender politics and the open list system is suggested with the ‘De ce fait (…)’ formulation. 

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