Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Akram Belkaïd: "Distrust of the Algerian regime has not disappeared

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, October 12th 2021 à 08:15 | Read 384 times

ALGERIA. On the sidelines of his virtual intervention at the Entretiens d'Euromed-IHEDN, Thursday 7 October 2021, Le Monde diplomatique journalist Akram Belkaïd deciphers for the current situation in Algeria and gives some perspectives.

Akram Belkaïd. Photo : F.Dubessy
Akram Belkaïd. Photo : F.Dubessy Algeria seems to be closing in on itself more and more. How did this come about?

Akram Belkaïd: The country is closing in on itself because of political circumstances. Bouteflika's illness has isolated Algeria internationally. Then, for the first time in a very long time, Algerians took to the streets en masse and peacefully to protest against the president's plan for a fifth term. After Abdelaziz Bouteflika's forced resignation in April 2019, they moved to a more global protest. Questioning the regime controlled by the army, they demanded the creation of a constituent assembly, a demand that dates back to the country's independence when some criticised the single party. Then came the pandemic that led to the end of the protests in March 2020.

The first failure of the Hirak was not to succeed in opening the channel of negotiation with the army. Even if the new government is a civilian state, we are still in a presidential system with a president who cannot take major decisions alone and a reinforced presence of the army at the political forefront.

The regime feels all the more defensive because it is in a zone of instability that threatens it: the Libyan conflict, armed groups in Mali and Niger, military tensions with Morocco, political tensions with its economic partner France... This develops a feeling of encirclement.

"The Hirak continues to exist through social networks"

Can the Hirak be reborn in the streets after this long pause in the demonstrations?

A.B.: I admit I don't have an answer. There have been attempts, but Algerian society has been tested by a difficult year 2021 with the closure of the borders from March 2020 because of the pandemic, economic difficulties on a daily basis, the high cost of living, electricity and water cuts, terrible fires... And also a repression of the opposition with arrests. The objective of the authorities is to prevent the resumption of the Friday demonstrations.

I don't know what spring could make society draw on its reserves to return to the streets. Especially as differences have emerged over the means to be used to oust the current government. The Hirak was going in circles. Many parties are not allowed, so it is difficult to make an opposition voice heard. But the distrust of the regime has not disappeared. I think there will be a massive abstention in the next elections, as in the previous ones. However, the movement continues to exist on social networks.

Algerian power is occupied by elderly leaders in a country with a very young population. Are there successors with the same political vision?

A.B.: Contrary to popular belief, renewal has taken place. The state machine has created a new ruling elite born after independence. Often trained in Algeria, it has benefited from a passing on of instructions and of the baton.

"A tense regional situation explains the rupture with Morocco"

How do you explain the renewed tension with Morocco and the rupture of diplomatic relations between the two countries?

A.B.: There are several factors. First of all, and this is true on both sides of the border, a conflict with the neighbour helps to close ranks internally and puts the opposition in an uncomfortable position. It is more difficult to be contentious on domestic policy when there are international tensions.

The rupture is also explained by a tense regional situation: normalisation of relations between Morocco and Israel, Israeli hostility towards Algeria which still supports Palestine, the Western Sahara issue, the Moroccan ambassador asking for a referendum on self-determination in Kabylia... All this has shocked not only the Algerian authorities.

Do you fear that the situation could escalate to the point of armed conflict?

A.B.: Neither of the two actors wants it to come to that. But they are not immune to a border incident that could lead to a bidding war between the two countries. Like a dry meadow in the middle of summer, all it takes is a spark for everything to ignite.
It would be terrible for the western Mediterranean if a real crisis were to arise between Algeria and Morocco.

Who could mediate between these two countries?
A.B.: The United States has done a lot. They are now more interested in the Indo-Pacific area. The Gulf countries are taking a wait-and-see attitude, because they are also in a process of normalisation with Israel.
France is the only country that could try to act to promote appeasement. Even if the Algerians have always considered it as pro-Moroccan. In fact, the Spanish are more concerned about Algiers and Rabat than France.


In the same section
< >


About is an independent media that deals with the daily economic news of the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Economic cooperation, business news by sector (Industry, Services, Transport, Environment, Society/Institutions), thematic files, airport news, airlines and shipping companies (new destinations)... are treated and analysed by a team of journalists present in the Mediterranean basin. Subscribe to To be the first to know, with unlimited access to all articles. To receive the weekly newsletters and special newsletters sent as soon as our files are published. Automatically renewable subscription, but the reader keeps control of it or yearly subscription. For individuals or professionals...