21 April 2014

Algerians Take Stability Over Change, and Who Can Blame Them?

Photo: @maboulazm/Yfrog
Pro-democracy protesters (file photo).

Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika personifies much of what is wrong with African governance: the corruption, the patronage, the sheer longevity of his time in office have all stunted his country's development, keeping Algeria and Algerians from reaching their full potential. But they could do so much worse, as a quick glance in the direction of Egypt and Libya reveals. Over the objections of a spirited opposition, Algerians have overwhelmingly preferred stability to change, and given the ailing Bouteflika another five years in office - providing he lasts the course.

There are several different types of elections. Some are genuine contests, in which the winner emerges with a democratic mandate and the good will of the majority of the people. Others are more circumscribed, giving voters a choice, but only a very narrow one (the most outrageous example of this is Hong Kong's Chief Executive election, where lawmakers are free to elect any of the handful of candidates pre-approved by the Chinese Communist Party). Still others are rubber-stamping exercises, designed to give de facto dictatorships the sheen of democratic legitimacy.

It is into this last category that the re-election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika falls. President Bouteflika has governed Algeria since...


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