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Algeria Islamists Miss Arab Spring Revival

Published: 12/05/2012 04:18:06 PM GMT
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ALGIERS - Resisting the Arab Spring's tide of democratic change, Algeria's ruling party secured a huge victory in legislative polls on Saturday, May 12 (more)

ALGIERS - Resisting the Arab Spring's tide of democratic change, Algeria's ruling party secured a huge victory in legislative polls on Saturday, May 12, as Islamists reeled from an unexpected stinging setback.

“In fact the Arab Spring did have an impact on the election... but maybe not in the way the world was expecting,” political analyst Nourredine Hakiki told Agence France Presse (AFP).

“In Egypt, in Libya, there was change but then there was regression and disorder... In Algeria, voters were looking for security, stability,” he said.

Algerian Islamists Hope for "Arab Spring" RevivalMaintaining the status quo, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's National Liberation Front (FLN) won 220 out of 462 seats up for grabs in Thursday's legislative elections, improving on its share in the outgoing national assembly.

The seven Islamist parties contesting the polls could only manage a combined 59 seats, a major setback after their predictions of victory during the campaign.

The National Rally for Democracy (RND) of Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, a nationalist party close to the military and loyal to Bouteflika, came second with 68 seats, compared to 62 in the outgoing house.

Algeria's outgoing governing coalition included the FLN, the RND and the largest of the legal Islamist parties, the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), the Algerian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood which swept to electoral triumphs in Egypt and Tunisia.

“Islamists here have made a big mistake. Because it has been part of every recent government, people in Algeria don't trust the MSP,” said Zouheir Hamedi, a political analyst based in Qatar.

“The Muslim Brothers in Egypt obtained a good score because they experienced prison for more than 30 years. Here the Islamists don't embody change,” he said.

In the wake of the popular revolts, previously-banned Islamists were brought to the helm of power in some countries as Tunisia, where Islamist Ennahda party won in the country's first free election.

The Muslim Brotherhood also emerged as the biggest winner in the upper and lower houses of parliament in Egypt, which also saw an uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

In Morocco, the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won 27% of parliament seats in last year's elections.


Analysts argued that the results showed Algerians' desire for stability and outright rejection of Islamits, whose rise 20 years ago led to civil war.

“Algeria has had Islamism, nobody here can forget that period,” political analyst Hakiki told AFP.

“It's a chapter that this generation does not want to reopen.”

After multi-partyism was introduced in 1989, the Islamic Salvation Front swept to victory in the first round of legislative elections two years later.

But the army stepped in to halt the vote and launched a crackdown, sparking a civil war that lasted 10 years and left 200,000 dead.

Other analysts referred to concerns of the international community which appeared keen to preserve the stability of Algeria, which provides a fifth of Europe's gas.

“There are justified concerns over countries where the Arab Spring took place... I feel there is a willingness to protect this regime,” Antoine Basbous, head of the Paris-based Observatory of Arab countries, said.

“There was a need for one hub of stability.”

Basbous cited overwhelmingly positive comments by the 500 foreign observers Bouteflika invited to monitor the polls and swift endorsements of the electoral process by foreign capitals despite widespread suspicion of fraud.

“Algeria is a key piece of the puzzle in the Sahel crisis,” he said, in reference to the division of Mali and the rise of armed groups with links to Al-Qaeda in the wake of the Libyan regime's collapse.

“Algeria was not going to be destabilized at a time when it is expected to play a role in its own zone of influence.”

Reproduced with permission from