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Algeria: The Second Setback - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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As the entire world watched the television screens to witness the final stages of the election process for the new American president in what seemed more like the final of a World Cup football tournament, Algeria followed a different direction in contrast to the American elections.

Last Monday, the Algerian Parliament endorsed five proposed items for the new constitutional amendment. The most prominent of these items was the amendment to remove limits on presidential terms meaning that the Algerian president could remain in power for his entire life.

In spite of what we have read from some of our Arab intellectuals who continue to lecture us on the American elections and question the process based on the idea that it is a false democracy in their view; we saw nothing but surprise and bewilderment with regards to the democratic setback that occurred and is ongoing in Algeria.

The Algerians know what is in their interest but what we know, as observers, is that what is happening in Algeria today constitutes the second setback after rushing to launch a democratic process in the elections of 1991 because of the Islamic Salvation Front [FIS]. The elections were cancelled immediately and back then it was reported that this was because the FIS announced that it would not continue the democratic process and would not hand over power to another party if it were to lose the next elections.

Algeria then entered a dark tunnel and violence engulfed the country. There was extensive loss of life and money and above all, the cost for Algeria and its people was political stability. The impact of terrorist operations is still visible to everybody in Algeria.

Today, with the proposed constitutional amendment that annuls the reforms introduced by a military leader that restrict his power and privileges in contrast to the nature of a military man, comes a civil government in Algeria to give the president more freedom and the opportunity to remain in power for the duration of his life. This may push Algeria to reenter another long, dark tunnel and only God knows the cost that Algeria and its people will bear for this.

Sadly, the proposed amendments for the Algerian constitution will be like adding fuel to the fire and might extend the period of violent acts and instability. This would be very unfortunate and we do not wish this upon Algeria and its people since it will be a real setback.

The nature of political activity, and the constructing of a state in particular, is characterized by accumulation and building upon what already exists for the sake of progressing the state and citizen. However, the proposed constitutional amendments in Algeria indicate a step backwards for the state and citizen and that the Algerian political crisis is back to square one.

The constitutional amendment will not direct Algeria towards political stability and will not put an end to violence altogether. Rather, consequently, the fire of violence will be relit and it will give legitimacy to the defamation of the political regime and this is exactly what the opposition and extremists want in Algeria.

Since a number of Arab states are content with a republican system for themselves and call for adhering to the democratic process and accept it through the ballot boxes, then they should first respect constitutions instead of trying to change them to suit themselves and respect laws that control the political process.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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