Monday, 23 March 2009

Day 3: Spreading broken wings

The campaign has started three days ago, and strangely, all the embargo concerning critisizing the governemnt on public media has been lifted, so yesterday you could hear a candidate with a red angry face saying « The Current politics are a total failure », but that, everybody seems to agree on already, but it's always to see it on TV

Mr Bouteflike vistied Setif today, an important town in the Algerian High Plateaus, where he spoke about the importance of sports and partriotic achievments, and about the rotten Algerian sports scene, especially football, you can't help but like the charisma of Mr Bouteflika for a while, makes you sometimes forget that he is the head of a bankrupt regime, then Mr bouteflika moved to Borj BouArririj, the rival town of Setif, where he was met with huge masses , you can't omit the rivality between these two towns, even when it comes to showing support for a politic nobody really understands

Mr Fouzi Rebbaine, one of the ¨ five who already lost » visited Wahran today, which is to Algeria what Barcelona is to spain, Mr Rebbaine has a jovial face, of a stereotyped father, where he spoke about his unability to have any kind of access to Television out of the presidential campaign season, and you can't even blame him for saying that.

Mr Moussa Touati, speaks about the involvment of international investors, with some catastrophic consequences you cannot ignore, which led the common Algerian to feel second to any foreigner in his own country, but in the Algerian system, the concept of « post failure resignation » doesn't exist, neither in the governemt, nor in the legislative branch, and of course nor in the political parties, who are sometimes the places of such dictatorships, that makes you
regret the goverment's flavour.

Mrs Louiza Hannoun went to Mascara, an agricultural important area in the Algerian's heartland, and where she promised many impossible things to the Algerian farmers, who don't want to farm to begin with, and that's another story and where she went as far as promising to ¨ bring back the Algerian money in the American banks » of course everybody except her seems to be aware that this is atotally impossible thing to do.

Mr Mouhamdi Said promised, and this is no joke, a 2800 euros income for an eight members family, which is great, and of coure why not a flying saucer to every family too, while Mr Jahid Younssi, spoke about « passing the torch », where he said ¨ we are waiting for passing the torch since the independance » and where he cricized the multiple-mandat constitutional change, and he knows what he istalking about, since he stole the torch from the former leader Mr Djaballah.

There is a strange feel of sinking while being high on methadone in this campaign, are we feeling the slow deprivation of oxygen, or is it just one of these nightmares you don't know if you are dreaming awake, or awake dreaming, but even bad plays have an audience, and even bad movies can become blockbusters, so let's hope this is a good movie with a bad trailer.

Day 2: Five flavours of « imppssible »

Jahid Younssi, the sixth candidate, and i say sixth because he is the least known in the six, and he is the one who said so bravely that it is « impossible for him to win these elections », and yet he is participating, such an attitude could be motivated by a simple reason, these three weeks of the campaign are the only time in the whole five years that the National television is opened wide, for people critisizing the politics and the gouvernment, but then again this is supposed to be enough to lead anyone to dispear, but not Mr Younssi, because first of all it is not even his party, it's the party of Mr Abdellah Djebellah, the main islamist figure in the Algerian politics, especially since the dissolution of the FIS the party which caused the whole ten bloody years in the nineties, and the death of Mr Mahfoud Nahnah, the leader of the Msp the other big Islamist party, and that his successor Mr AbuDjerra Sultani, has chosen to join the « presidential coalition » which shifted him from opposition to the same position of the FLN and the RND the parties of the reigning power

Now who can trust a man who betrayed his own leader ?, well nobody, but since he is not even expecting to win, you can't blame him.

The other Candidate is Mr Ali Fouzi Rebbaine the secretary general of the « AHD 54 » party, a party basically founded on the loyalty towards the principles of the revolution of 1954, which was an extraordinary act by all means (I mean the revolution), the problem of this party is that it only appears once every five years, to participate to the elections, lose, get a humiliating percentage, and come back to hibernation, and it is just one more occasion to hear the candidates representatives speaking the same things you see in the independant newspapers , who have the biggest readership in Algeria, so it is really some small oxygen tank, in a suffocating environment, because you just can't believe that this man can win, because even if there were important candidates, it would still be the same old story, of him losing.

and you have Mrs Louiza Hannoun, the only female candiate, and the candidate of the « labour party » of course it has nothing to do with the real labour party in britain, it is a party which has stragely kept the same dialogue throughout two decades to the third, and She was the one who famously was praised by president Bouteflika himself as « the person he thinks will succeed him » during a famous encounter with some French Congressmen.

the problem of Mrs Hannoun is that her popularity was eroded, because she has lowered her high critisizing tone to the governemtn, some say it's because of her selling her soul to the devil, for a luxury lifestyle in « Club Des Pins » the forbidden district where the officials and their families live.

Now does she have any chance to win, of course no, but she is a carismatic figure, and she is a gifted orator, and you gotta respect here somewhere just because she deosn't chew her words.

Mr Mouhamdi Said, the righteous heir of Mr Ahmed Taleb el Ibrahimi, Legendary figure in Algeria, who was robbed of his right to create a political party, but that's another story, started his campaign by visiting the grave of Houari Boumediene, the mythical Algerian president of the ¨ good years », then three days the grave of AbdulHamid IbnBadiss, the Algerian érudite, the Algerian equivalent to a Mahatma Ghandi, but campaigning in graves is surely a bad omen, because as everybody knows that dead people don't vote, unless you do it as a form of sarcasm like to say « my chances passed away » and then you might get something going there.

I dream sometimes of a perfect world, where the goverment allows true opposition to flourish without setting it up, and where the oppsition would promise doable things, and where they start practice democracy in their homes before asking the governemnt to do so, but this is just a dream, we are in the whole impossible realm, possible things get magnified until they become obsolete, and impossible things become theoritically possible, but only in the days of the presidential campaign.

Day 1 : Kinght & Rabbits

The campaign started today, March 19th, the day of a big symbolism in Algeria since it's the day the French and Algerian Negociators have agreed on the terms of French Withdrawal from Algeria, although some pretend they never actually did, and just left by the door to come back by the Chimney as a evil version ofs Santa Calaus, but seriously they never really left, because mind you, a lot of people don't want them to.

So let me introduce the characters in this play, you have the knight, Mr Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the current president, and surely to be the next, and the other five ones, Mr Jahid Younssi, Mr Ali Fouzi Rebbaine, Mr Mouhamed Said, Mr Moussa Touati, and Mrs Louis Hannoun, the latter five famously known as « the rabbits », the rabbits being these contenders who participate to a race only to give it a pace, but who do not intend to win, or know they can't which is also
the same thing, at least in terms of results.

So let's say it's a period of three weeks, like when we were kids and parents leave the house for some urgent business, and you can do anything until they come, well it's just that these days in Algeria, it's some kind of a truce, which won't last a long time, but it's better then nothing, so everyday you have half an hour of five people criticizing the govenement, then the governement
praising itself, and insisting to what matters the most « you gotta participate » because if you don't you are a bad citizen, and everybody wants to be the good amongst the bad.

It is always funny to see the five « other » candidates speak of themselves as « «presidentiall candidates », which is the truth in a way, but in the same time, they should be exactly called « presidential candidates bound to lose » , the other funny thing being that they speak of their « programs », because when you don't have a chance to win, you can promise anything, so they give some imaginary solutions, like in a bad fairy tale, it's reminds me when my father was in the coma, and we were all leaving in denial, and denial is sweet, until the day he actually passes away, and then you will have to swallow all the bitterness you were avoiding in one shot, and burn your throat.

DAY 0: When Blue is the Color

After a huge dose of suspense which lasted for the best part of the year (of course from a cheap brand of suspense) and in an US Demorcratic Party worthy Conveition, President Bouteflika Announced that he will run for president, in big party where everybody was present, and by everybody i don't mean everybody like ¨ everybody who had nothing to do that day », but i mean everybody like EVERYBODY, all the people you would expect, the governement, labour leaders,civil leaders, business people, Military , and even Mob Bosses perhaps (you never know everybody was dressed alike, and an Armani suit is the same oneverybody), where Rai was music and blue was the colour, miles of blue fabric to cover the huge conference center in the suburb of Algiers known as ¨ la coupole » which looks mind you like a flying saucer, imagine what would have happned if it took off, god forbids, we would be so deprived of our créme de la
créme !

Anyways it was bound to happen and it happned, and everybody was like ¨ oh great » you never know when something so ¨ unpredictable » happens, Mr Boutfelika in a shape better then people half his age, stood in the center of the spotlights, spoke, told some jokes, shook handes, and everybody had a good time, except perhaps people who saw the uncomfortable parallels with the Obama Conventions, because everything was so blue, could easily give you the blues, and that's the last thing you'd want in a party, they then launched their website, and the effigie of the campaign, no less then a white dove, so let me say it again, it was white on blue, and as a famous Algerian columnist noted, it was the first time where the colours of the country Green and Red missed the party, but maybe it's part of a brand of modernity that I
can't understand

and that's when all this affair became interesting, from this deep bottom we could only rise up, and man did it feel like sinking halfway the surface.


Every action should be governed by a reason behind it, at least that's what i think, and thus this presidential campaign is way too important to be missed, because it has several points of importance, the first being that never in the history of modern Algeria an election has been so clear because everybody knows that the current president Abdelaziz Bouteflika will be the winner, and that's why no so called "heavyweight" contender has registred to be the challenger, so let me make this clear for anybody who is not familiar with the scape of Algerian politics, we have six candidates for this presidential campaign, the current president Mr Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the man who gatheres such a consensus around him, and who is the most ambiguous figure in Algerian mondern politics, some claiming his is the savior, and others the anti-christ

so what interest can be in an elections with such a clear issue, the interest in any elections should be the fight between the candidates, and the suspense that lasts until the last minute, but if we don't have that it doesnt mean that all hope is lost, because these are historical elections, first because Mr Bouteflika will most probably be the last president who participated in the 1954revolution, which is important in a country looking for another legitmity after the « revolutionary legitimity » which has ruled the country for better or for worse for five decades has ran out of gas, the other is that these elections come directly after constitutional rectifications, which lifted the dam that prevented anybody to be a president for more then two terms which allowed Mr Bouteflika to participate to these elections, and third because the quantity of despair in the country fed by oracle-ish journalists and columinsts has led to aclimate of despair, which led into a general dis-interest in politics, which caused the biggest fear any regime can face, a low participation rate

So the strange thing is that Mr Bouteflika's representatives, or the leaders of the « presidential coalition » as well as the « heavy media » (these being the ENTV the government controlled television channel in Algeria, and the Algerian Radio).

Yes indeed, the rise in Oil and Gaz prices just before the recession has allowed Algeria to pay the majority of it's external debt, and to gather more then one hunred billion dollars, but unfortunatly this money did not have a big effect on the life standards of the majority of Algerians, because except for a minority of business people, and the whole circle surrounding them, the common Algerian is suffering from major crisis, unemployment, housing, and more then anything hope, this major ingredient in every happiness recipe.

So while the majority of Algerians are dreaming of a better life in the west, let's pretend that we care, and check under the hood of this campaign.