19 February 2014

Algerian Islamists Boycott Presidential Election

Photo: Summit Photo
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika arriving at a G8 summit (file photo).

Algiers — The Algerian presidential election scheduled for April 17th will take place without the Islamists.

Islamist party Justice and Development Front (FJD, or El Adala) on Saturday (February 15th) called for the poll to be postponed.

Along with Fellow Islamist parties Ennahda and Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP), El Adala had already announced a boycott of the poll.

This is the first time since the advent of multi-party politics in Algeria at the beginning of the 1990s that Islamist parties have all withdrawn from a presidential election.

Still, FJD chief Abdellah Djaballah rejected the suggestion that the Islamist movement in Algeria had seen a marked decline since its poor showing in the May 2012 legislative elections.

The decision to boycott the election "does not mean that our power is weakened", Djebellah told the press Saturday.

But as Liberte editorialised last month, the 2012 legislative and local election may have demonstrated to the Islamists "the impossibility of achieving their political ambitions through the electoral process".

Ennahda chief Mohamed Douibi, meanwhile, blamed "the authorities, who have pushed the opposition to adopt radical stances by opting for a boycott".

Another Islamist figure, Ali Belhadj, had even hoped to be on the ballot.

The deputy leader of the dissolved FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) considered a run for office, but the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation bans anyone involved in acts of terrorism in Algeria during the Black Decade" from engaging in political activity.

Some observers see the boycott as a way for the flagging parties to save face.

The Islamists' move "stems from the fact that these parties no longer have the same ability to attract Algeria's young people and voters," political analyst Amine Souileh told Magharebia.

"Even if there is no fraud, the Islamists will not take power," he said.

"Cohesion and unity are two weaknesses of the Islamist parties," he added. "The Islamist parties are like brothers who are enemies and will not sit down at the same table to overcome their differences," Souileh said.

Student Nawel Madi agreed that the boycott would have little impact.

"The Islamist movement no longer has the same influence on Algerian society, so its absence can't have any impact on the election," she said.

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