Algeria: what if it was Hamrouche?

by Hervé Pugi.

The 2014 presidential election in Algeria is still fresh. Yet, the question of Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s succession is already present in many minds. Lobbying activities of potential candidates are underway. among the names that are constantly coming up is that of Mouloud Hamrouche, « son of the system »…

What exactly is Mouloud Hamrouche’s merit? That of having been the head of the government of « reformers », who presided over the destiny of Algeria between September 1989 and June 1991. Unfortunately, a policy of openness coincided with the rise in importance of the Islamic Salvation Front (ISF), responsible for the deadly and bloody « black decade ». What do we know about this man? That he’s someone for whom politics are music to his ears, but whose great symphony remains unfinished to this day and this remains a thorn in his side according to his detractors who constantly criticize him for having « let the Islamists overrun the streets ». However, his supporters are adamant and do not hesitate to describe him as the « only credible solution to get Algeria back on its feet ».

The next presidential election being due in 2019, this former National Liberation Front (FLN) member is apparently keen on making his comeback: 30 years after his stint in power. This « son of the system », as he one day described himself, has taken his time… the time to observe the developments in the world and in his country. Stepping back and taking stock of the situation led him to take the decision not to run out of options by trying to oppose the ever-present Bouteflika clan. « There’s no question of playing the useful idiot, as did Ali Benflis », explains his entourage, « there was no political space for any alternative ».

The situation should soon change. Could the end of Bouteflika’s reign lead to the revival of Algerian democracy? It is hard to believe since the system seems so tightly controlled, despite considerably cleaning up the DRS in recent years. Nevertheless, our interlocutors argue that this 73 year-old eternal reformer still represents modernity in a stiff political class: « even among officers, especially the younger ones, there is a desire for change and Hamrouche appears as someone who is capable of ensuring a smooth transition between the current system and a new, more liberal one ».

This is the main argument of those who defend the native of El Harrouch. Hamrouche knows the system and the men who are part of it. He is fully aware of their expectations or fears. Above all, he knows that an abrupt change in the way the country is governed, however imperfect it may be, is neither possible nor desirable. Algeria, which is still traumatized by the ghosts of a not so distant past, cannot afford (and does not want) a « Tunisian-style » adventure. No, the intention of this former resistance fighter of the war of liberation is, according to his supporters, to give things time in order to attend to Algerian affairs.

« What other Algerian politician today can reverse this typical Algerian, inward-looking approach? Our leaders have an anachronistic vision of diplomacy, economy and society. We cannot go on like this any longer. Everyone now realizes that oil revenues alone will not be enough to ensure the prosperity of the country and its citizens », protests one of the protagonists, who adds: « soon, they will even be insufficient to fill the pockets of those who benefit most from this income ».

In his opinion, Mouloud Hamrouche, « a man of international stature », is the only one with the calibre, knowledge and experience to pull the country out of the rut. It now remains to be seen which candidate the presidency and the system will co-opt in the coming years, if, indeed, they do and especially, how the Algerian people will welcome Mouloud Hamrouche. Provided that the latter decides to seriously delve into the intricacies of complex and tricky Algerian politics. For the moment, it would seem no decision has been made, but some are already getting ready!

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