By Hayam El Hadi and Lyes Aflou
After several months of suspense, moderate Islamist party Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) withdrew from Algeria’s presidential alliance. But in a controversial move, the party decided to keep its ministers as part of the government.
The MSP pulled out of Algeria’s governing coalition on Sunday (January 1st). The head of the moderate Islamist party, Bouguerra Soltani, who made the announcement at the conclusion of the MSP executive council meeting (Majliss Echoura), said it was impossible to continue work with the coalition.
‘Its political mediocrity …is of no use to the country or to the citizen,” he said.
Highly critical of his former allies, Soltani added that “the MSP does not share the stance adopted by its partners in the alliance regarding the philosophy of the reform process, which has been diverted along partisan lines.”
The MSP departure came following the party’s Majliss Echoura, held December 30th. The moderate Islamist party originally joined the ruling coalition with the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the National Democratic Assembly (RND) to support the presidential programme in 2004.
Before making its decision public, the MSP had already given clear signals. Its MPs voted against all the laws introduced as part of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s proposed reforms.
“The thinking behind the reforms is still driven by the ghosts of the national tragedy and the state-of-emergency mind-set,” Soltani said.
Many analysts spoke of their astonishment at the MSP’s decision to keep its ministers within the government despite its withdrawal from the alliance. In one article, El Watan denounced the “MSP’s dirty tactics”, explaining that the party “has made a lot of noise about its withdrawal, yet without taking its ministers out of the government. This pretend divorce is just an example of pre-election opportunism to rally support at the ballot box from disappointed Islamists and malcontents on all sides.”
The MSP’s allies have already responded. The RND’s spokesman, Miloud Chorfi, said that “the party deeply regrets the withdrawal of one of the parties from the presidential alliance; however, the MSP’s decision must stand and we respect that.”
The FLN was less diplomatic. “The decision to withdraw from the presidential alliance was a non-event, totally predictable, and does not merit any comment,” the party said.
Elsewhere, other parties are still waiting for official approval. Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia detailed the lengthy process on Monday (January 9th). Aspiring parties must have representatives in at least a third of wilayas, at least 1,600 members and include a “representative” proportion of women, among other several other requirements.
Further initiatives were recently introduced, increasing the number of parties awaiting approval to fifteen, which, provided they receive approval, will stand alongside the roughly 60 organisations approved since the 1990s. But the growing number of political parties has been met with indifference by the public.
Mustapha, who works for a state-owned company, said that multi-party politics has not led to democracy in Algeria because “it has not resulted in a regular change of government, with the FLN and its offshoot, the RND, dominating the scene”.