Algeria: can the “Hirak” anti-regime surge resume?

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Algiers | After more than a year of weekly marches, stopped dead by the coronavirus, the “Hirak”, an unprecedented and peaceful popular uprising in Algeria, is at a crossroads two months before a referendum on a constitutional reform supposed to respond to its demands. aspirations.

Oran, Algiers, Tlemcen, Ouargla, Bejaïa or Biskra. In recent weeks, attempts at mobilization have multiplied across Algeria: can the anti-regime protest movement restart or is it doomed to collapse?

“Although both hypotheses are possible, the most likely is the resumption of demonstrations,” predicts political scientist Louisa Driss Aït Hamadouche.

Not only have the multiple causes of the uprising not disappeared, she argues, but “the will to change the mode of governance is still present”.

It has even been reinforced, according to her, due to the repression (of the movement) and the deterioration of the health, economic and social situation.

“By remaining peaceful and civic, Algerians have shown a surprising maturity. This spirit of citizen protest means that with or without popular demonstrations, the “Hirak” is here to stay, “said the political scientist.

System survival

His colleague Mahrez Bouich has no doubts about the return of the “Hirak” and its pursuit “until the end of the people’s demands”.

The “Hirak” is “not a social movement organized according to a fixed strategy but a popular phenomenon which crosses the planet, caused by an accumulation of frustrations and attacks on freedoms by political systems which refuse change” , underlines Mansour Kedidir, political science researcher.

However, this multifaceted movement, without a designated leadership, is plagued by its own divisions, between progressives and conservatives, between secularists and Islamists, likely to weaken it against the regime.

“Twenty years in power Bouteflika have devitalized society to the point that currently no party can claim to constitute an alternative force”, notes Mr. Kedidir.

In addition, the suspension of the marches for nearly six months, due to the pandemic, does not facilitate the resumption of the movement.

The “Hirak”, further recalls Mrs. Driss Aït Hamadouche, “suffered a repressive policy which put it in a defensive posture”, even if it invented other forms of expression such as networks of solidarity during the health crisis or discussion circles on digital platforms.

Faced with an immobilized protest, which has failed to change the political system in place since 1962, the government applies its “road map” put in place after the presidential election of December 2019, marked by a record abstention rate (60 %).

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has promised a reform of the Constitution, supposed to break with the Bouteflika era, synonymous with authoritarianism, corruption and nepotism, and a “New Republic”.

But this constitutional revision, which is due to be the subject of a referendum on November 1, has already been criticized by parties and associations linked to “Hirak”, lawyers and human rights defenders who denounce “a patching up ”without real calling into question the presidential regime.

A project which aims in fact to allow the system in place to “reproduce”, explains the specialist in political philosophy Mahrez Bouich.

“Precarious mass”

This power, long embodied by a National Liberation Front (FLN) today largely discredited, is running out of steam, notes Ms. Driss Aït Hamadouche. It has not known how to renew either its social base or its legitimacy. Hence, she says, her incantatory recourse to the imagination of the war of independence (1954-1962), in contradiction with the “New Algeria” praised in official speeches.

In fact, the constitutional reform does not seem so far to enthrall Algerians facing a serious socio-economic crisis.

Many workers have lost their jobs or have been on technical unemployment for long months due to the pandemic.

This impoverishment has notably coincided with the upsurge in illegal departures to Europe.

Mr. Kedidir notes in this regard the emergence of “invisible alternative forces”, such as groups of young people in the South who rebel against their living conditions. These forces “will arise when a blast of wind ignites the precarious mass like dry wood,” he warns.

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