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The Outstretched Hand: Algeria’s New Approach to Tackle Domestic Challenges

The Algerian presidency’s move to launch a national dialogue and the “Reunion” initiative marks a watershed in President AbdelmadjidTebboune’s first term and a critical path towards readjusting the political landscape with all its partisan components and opposition blocs. This step is particularly aimed at promoting national reconciliation with the political forces and opposition at home and abroad, which has been growing since the Hirak [the popular movement] began in early 2019 and overthrew the regime of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Perhaps the launch of this initiative, which is geared towards bringing an end to the popular movement and the release of political detainees, coincides with the celebrations of Algeria’s 60th anniversary of independence on 5 July 2022, which brings dynamism to the political scene, making a ripple in the stagnant waters of Algeria’s political circles.

Diverse Motives

A look at the “Reunion” initiative which is being developed by the Algerian presidency would reveal that it largely targets achieving a set of goals, including:

  • Creating a Space for Political Understanding: The prime goal of this initiative is to create political dynamism in Algeria towards addressing the various challenges amid the internal economic crisis given repercussions of Covid-19 and the Russo-Ukrainian war on Algerian economy. Hence comes the desire of the Algerian regime to open the political field to political forces towards starting a new chapter with the social strata that reject the policies adopted since the popular movement began in February 2019.
  • Fortifying the Algerian Interior in the Face of External Intrusions: Algeria’s Reunion initiative comes at a time the North African region is experiencing several intrusions given the Moroccan-Israeli rapprochement and the two countries’ efforts to create a volatile situation in Algeria. This has been evident in Algeria’s official accusations of some of the Algerian opposition movements (i.e. Islamist Rashad group and MAK separatist movement) of pursuing foreign agendas and being behind the fires that Algeria has been facing  at the end of 2021 and early 2022. Perhaps these successive official moves aim at giving the regime a new breathing space for confronting dangers and protecting the state from the danger of internal disruption and divisions.
  • Moving the “New Algeria” Project Forward: The New Algeria project has been one of Tebboune’s aspirations since his election as president in December 2019. The global crises and the accumulated internal crises inherited from Bouteflika’s period caused this project to stumble several times, which required creating a coherent and supportive domestic front for the success of the president’s project. In many respects, the national reconciliation project has multiple benefits for all Algerian political forces aspiring to engage in the political scene and for the regime as it helps it achieve cohesion and internal stability.

Supportive Context and Prospects for Success

Algeria’s Reunion initiative was associated with other positive steps that would help bring success and deliver national reconciliation, including:

  • Settling the Detainees’ Issue and Containment of the Opposition: Markedly, there have been movements by the Algerian state to settle the issue of the popular movement’s detainees, as has been demonstrated by the release of about 300 prisoners of conscience in early April 2022 and the presidency directing the judiciary to reduce sentences for a number of detainees and quash other verdicts, a new approach adopted by the Algerian government and an important indication of the shift in the security orientations to address internal issues and the country’s restoration of political dynamism. Perhaps this would enhance the situation of freedoms and human rights on the one hand and the opposition parties’ response on the other, having long called for settling the detainees’ issue and releasing prisoners of conscience, including those from the National Construction Movement, the Democratic and Social Movement, and the Movement of Society for Peace which is one of the largest Islamist opposition party in Algeria. Additionally, the regime called on the opposition residing abroad to join the dialogue and put forward a path of return and domestic political action as was the case with the former Algerian Agent Karim Moulay.
  • Broadening Political Participation: Another supportive factor was the government’s pursuit to widen the scope of representation in the future Government. President Tebboune intends to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle that would give rise to a technocrat government, as has been evidenced by meetings of Tebboune with partisan and political figures across the political spectrum, including his meeting with Head of the National Construction Movement Abdelkader Ben Qurainah and Head of the Jil Jadid Party Sofiane Djilali, a clear indication of the regime’s openness and outstretched hand policy to achieve the aspirations of Algerian people.

Beyond this, there have been parallel movements at the administrative and structural levels of the Algerian state, culminating in President Tebboune’s announcement on 9 May 2022, the establishment of ten new states to be added to the 48 states of Algeria, which promotes the utilization of human resources. 

  • Institutional Support for Tebboune’s Endeavors: The institutional support for Tebboune’s initiative is a critical factor for its success. In this respect, the Algerian Parliament declared its intention to engage in the political dialogue, underscoring the importance of rallying around President Tebboune’s endeavors within the “Reunion” policy in the interest of achieving the “Algeria for everyone and everyone builds it” principle, towards forging national unity and strengthening the independence of political decision-making by ensuring political and economic independence.
  • Party Support: The majority of Algerian political parties have shown positive response to engage in the national dialogue. For instance, the National Liberation Front described the initiative as being a path to building a new Algeria capable of confronting the internal challenges and external threats. Further, opposition parties, including primarily the National Construction Movement, which called for siding with the state to preserve its security and stability and Tajamou Aml Al-Jazaer Party, which described the initiative as a path to building a coherent domestic front to confront national and international challenges.

Overall, Algeria’s endeavors to launch the Reunion initiative can be seen as a recognition of the internal political imbalance and internal inconsistencies regarding the policies of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, which were not accepted by a large segment of the Algerian people on the one hand (clearly evidenced by the general political reluctance during the constitutional entitlements, starting from the presidential elections, the constitutional referendum, and the legislative elections). On the other hand, Tebboune seeks to achieve an internal political accord that would be of support to him if he runs for a second term. Perhaps ensuring the initiative’s success in light of the regime’s recent openness to the opposition will give rise to a robust domestic front and set the course for the new Algerian Republic.

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