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Why a National conference wouldn't work in Algeria Why a National conference wouldn't work in Algeria
by Joseph Gatt
2019-03-26 09:43:09
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You basically have four political schools of thought in Algeria. You have the Nationalists, who tend to be anti-Western and for a conservative form of Islam. You have the Islamists, who are for a radical form of Islam. You have the Marxists, who are against private property and ownership. And you have the Berberists, who are pro-Western and anti-clerical, although for conservative social values.

Now imagine a national conference in Algeria to write a new constitution. This is probably what would happen.

alge002_400The Nationalists will want capitalism, but anti-imperialism and national sovereignty to be a key part of their constitution. The Nationalists will want to include anti-colonial history as a key component in the constitution. They will want freedom of the press, as the press does not offend national symbols. The Islamists will say no, no, no. They will want an Islamic republic, and a constitution based on Sharia, or at least largely inspired from Sharia. The Marxists will storm out of the room saying: no private ownership. The state should own everything. No Jewish finance in our pockets! Then the Berberists will say. Come on guys! We want capitalism. We want French companies all over the place. We want pubs everywhere. But we don't want women in pubs. Women can have their own pubs if they want.

Rather than find a compromise like in Israel, where there is no constitution and laws are deliberately vague to avoid offending religious and secular factions of Israel, Algerians, by wanting to write a constitution, won't be able to find a compromise.

Soon enough, regional politics will come into play. The M'zab valley and the Ouargla region are Berberists, but also have an Islamic bent. The Chaouia region is Berberists, but has a Nationalist bent. The Mitija region has an Islamist bent. Western regions have nationalist bents, but are also secularists. Eastern regions are a mix of Nationalist and Islamist. The Kabylie region is Berberist, while Algiers is Central regions are a mix of all politics.

Before the Algerians can agree on anything, they will be fighting before threatening to succeed, and eventually succeed.

So, the army has been talking lately about securing borders, and is the only faction that holds the country together. There is no doubt that the army will eventually seize power.

I don't think there will be anything like elections in Algeria. Political parties cannot find a compromise like in Israel, and every political party wants total and complete rule of the country. The Islamists are too comfortable in their beliefs to tolerate secularists, the Berberists are too comfortable in their views to tolerate Islamists.

So what's coming ahead is clearly a military dictatorship of some sort, perhaps largely inspired from the kind of regime you have in China. Minorities will not be recognized, political conversation will be off the table, the media will be heavily censored, and unlike China, Algeria will probably remain some kind of self-sufficient regime that stays out of international politics, perhaps something of a Turkmenistan.

Then who knows what kind of leader can emerge. Some are talking about bringing back former President Liamine Zeroual, who is a rather shy and discreet man, who tends to avoid public speeches and avoids a cult of personality. Or you could have a leader with a bent for a cult of personality. The economy will probably tolerate foreign companies as long as foreign companies are not involved in politics. But unlike Turkmenistan, it's very unlikely that a meticulous leader emerges, one with a grandiose vision for architecture, roads, and cleanliness. But then who knows. 

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