Magharebia (Washington DC)

Algeria Salafist Party Seeks Approval

Algiers — Algerian salafists want to create a political party of their own. Last week they submitted an application to the interior ministry.

Led by former members of the now-dissolved Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), salafists plan to offer an alternative to the current Islamist parties, who have failed to make an impact on the new political landscape.

However, their January 2nd application could be rejected due to the devastation caused by the former FIS.

Abdelfattah Hamadache Zeraoui is the spokesperson for the aspiring new party, the Free Awakening Front. He is a former FIS activist who has made a name for himself over the last few years by attending public demonstrations.

The founders of the new party intend to "enrich the political scene with salafist political involvement". They are making no secret of their religious leanings.

The salafists' political plan is described in their manifesto as "one of a happy medium and moderation" far removed from extremism.

"We are exercising our natural and legitimate right to debate and criticise all matters of interest to the Algerian people, in accordance with Algeria's sovereignty and character, without excess or compromise," stated Zeraoui.

He added that his movement wants to play a part in cleaning up society's morals because, he argued, "If we leave this to the secularists and the liberals, they will cause a legislative disaster contrary to originality, values and religion."

Analysts, however, believe their application could be rejected due to legal obstacles.

First, the 1996 Constitution prohibits the creation of religion-based parties. A bigger hurdle, however, comes from provisions in the National Reconciliation Charter, which hold the leaders of the former FIS responsible for the tragedy suffered by the Algerian nation during the 1990s and forbid them to engage in political activity.

However, nothing has been decided yet, said Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia. The FIS "was dissolved by way of legal proceedings in March 1992 for reasons that are generally known", the minister said.

"If they now want to create a party abroad, that's up to them," Ould Kablia added. "It will have no impact on politics within this country."

The minister, however, specified that former FIS activists who have not forfeited their political and civil rights and who do not fall under the category mentioned in the presidential order of 2006 may engage in political activity, provided that they do not create a new party.

"Because if they [create a new party], they will base it on the ideology of the dissolved party," he noted. "They can, however, be members of parties of their choice as long as they are not founding members. That's why I have said that things will be judged on a case-by-case basis."

"We will have the checks required by law carried out by the three security services. If a negative view is taken, we will ask these parties to exclude from their lists the founding members who have no right to be founding members," he concluded.

The National Front for Change (FNC), founded by a former minister and former Movement for a Peaceful Society (MSP) senior member Abdelmadjid Menasra, ran into difficulties in March 2012 when he filed his application, due to the inclusion of former FIS members in the list of founders.

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