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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les partis démocrates montent au créneau

by H. Z.

Algeria’s Democratic Parties Come Forward.

Translated Friday 28 January 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

Left-wing parties, civil society associations and personalities are calling for a march in Algiers on January 22. The police have been keeping a close eye on Algiers for the past few days. From our special correspondent.

Three things are feeding the Algerian government’s uncertainty and fear. The fall and flight of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, who entertained close relations with his Algerian counterpart. Algerians’ open sympathy with the Tunisians, linked as they are by several centuries of common history and by the fact that Tunisia was a country of refuge for Algerian combatants during the war for independence. And finally, the fear that the Tunisian uprising could spread to Algeria, which has seen repeated riots since October 1988, the year of the popular uprising (500 deaths) that put an end to the single-party political system, previous to the country plunging into the violence that cost over 100,000 lives between 1990 and 2000.

Ever since the revolt against the high cost of living which hit several Algerian cities for several days in the first week of January, the Algerian authorities have known that the slightest spark could trigger a popular explosion. Consequently they have been keeping a close eye on the latest attempts at immolation which have occurred in several regions.

This fear is illustrated by the deployment of anti-riot police in the main thoroughfares of the capital and the Algiers prefecture’s forbidding the march called by the Union for Culture and Democracy (RCD). The RCD, which has described the prefecture’s action as “the expression of a government at bay,” has moreover repeated its call for a rally on January 22, calling at the same time for all the political and social forces to unite behind “a consensus on a platform of acceptable demands.” Simultaneously, the RCD has accused “Algiers and Tripoli” of promoting “chaos in Tunisia.”

The Party of Secularism and Democracy (PLD), which originated in the communist movement, is also calling for the demonstration on January 22. The PLD has stated that the recent social riots in Algeria are “the signature of a social and political failure that is all the more resounding as the Public Treasury is overflowing with financial means which could easily have backed the recovery plan that the country has been wanting for decades.”

Other political organizations and associations of civil society, like the Committee for the Defense of the Republic (CCDR) and the village committees in Kabylia (the Aarchs) have also decided to join the rally. But curiously, the Front of Socialist Forces (FFS), although it has expressed its solidarity with the Tunisian people, is remaining in the background.

It remains to be known if the democrats’ call will be heard by the population, because, if the rally is a failure, the Algerian government, which has always exploited splits in the democratic camp, will not fail to reassure itself on the cheap. Didn’t Abdelaziz Belkhadem, the general secretary of the National Liberation Front (NLF), the nationalist wing of the ruling “presidential alliance,” compare the latest riots to “a kind of soccer game!"

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