Algerians involvement in politics, a couple stories

I have talked a few times already about my people’s apathy and their dislike of the political matter. I will not try to analyse it here and I will just tell two short stories which occurred at different times and which were reported to me or which I directly witnessed.
These stories are certainly not unique to Algeria and are not intended to provide a general rule but, as I can guarantee their authenticity, I thought I’d just share them.

1999 presidential elections

Somebody I knew was in his Ph.D. years and his (Algerian) scholarship got suspended for some reason. The man decided to join one of candidate Bouteflika’s supporting committees abroad. He might have believed in the man but the main reason for joining the committee was to build a network with important influential persons in order to get his sponsorship back. He succeeded in meeting some deputies and got himself invited to Club des Pins and also the Aurassi hotel (where some of these deputies lived during the 90s), but as far as I know he never got the scholarship back. Last time I heard from him he was swearing at Bouteflika and the deputies altogether.

2004 presidential elections

There was once a good FLN mayor (adding “good” could give his identity away as there are not many of them out there) who was liked by his people and got elected every time without the shkara and despite the fact his party was hated by his electors. The brave mayor got tired and decided to have some rest. So, unlike our politicians, he completed his term and left. Remained the “resting” bit. He thought he served the FLN very well and deserved a reward. It happened that he knew one FLN minister and together they built-up a plan: Actively support the to-be-president and get diplomatic appointments in some western country. They attended the FLN congress and there they saw the generals and all those who ruled the country. Everyone was saying Benflis had the army support and would be Algeria’s next president.
With this confirmation, they put on all their energy in the task, creating committees and all, but… rumours about an important general being pushed to retirement started and they understood their candidate had already lost before the vote. They understood their dreams will remain just dreams.

2009 presidential elections

I know I promised two stories but I am a generous man and I am adding one here.

Two university students were talking in a bus in Algiers. They looked busy trying to get their agenda dates sorted. One was heading to a meeting of candidate Bouteflika and the other to a meeting of candidate Touati. You’d think they were supporters of their candidates or curious electors trying to make the right choice by attending to these meetings, and you would be wrong. They were heading to these meetings just because they were paid for it, one 1500DA and the other 1000DA.

I shared these stories because their actors are supposed to be among the Algerian political and academic elites, and yet everyone supported their candidate as an answer to the WIIFM question, which is quite normal, but none extended this question enough to reach the people or the country. All of them only considered their narrow self interests. I said above that these little stories can reasonably not be taken as a rule and their value is therefore tiny, but I think this behaviour and way of doing things is unfortunately spread all over the country.


20 thoughts on “Algerians involvement in politics, a couple stories

  1. When people kiss-up to others (or Western countries) hoping to achieve “dreams” and goals, they end up being humiliated and rejected! I’m not surprised. This is what the Prophet of Islam had taught. Egypt and Tunisia depended on no one but God and themselves. Today, they have earned the respect of the world: for example, they stand firm regarding the exported price of Gas to the enemies of humanity.


  2. There was a time when I believed that if every one were free to pursuie their dreams, there would come a time where all these individual energies will converge and out would emerge the collective well being. I was obviously influenced by Western liberalism, Ayn Rand and the free market sort of ideologies.

    Living with and observing algerians have shattered this illusion of course. So has the latest financial meltdown. The thing is, it all depends on starting conditions and the assumption that human greed does have an upper limit or let’s say is bound by time and space. Well, it doesn’t and even if it had, the algerian (or should I say Ayrab) upper limit would be waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay above the rest of humanity.

    • Twas my point. A collective vision is one of these starting conditions that are missing in Algeria for the individual energies to converge. Boudiaf has asked in his book “où va l’Algérie?” and nobody thought of suggesting an answer.

      • We did have one but it is now largely discreditted. I think Algeria has a lot to learn from the US – they had started from scratch and managed to build a strong nation, they seem to have got the balance between individual and collective worked out but obviously, it being too inclined perhaps towards the individual has created some problems (it is a ruthless environment where I imagine happiness would be compromised). I wonder how they could rectify it – they’re resourceful enough and their strongest advantage as a nation is that they believe – they have faith in America comes what may.

        In Algeria, we don’t only need a collective vision, I think we’re at a point where even individual vision is practically non existant. And what is most worrying is that we seem to have no way whatsoever of defining or even choosing the least worst options we could adopt to get going! Our choice seems meagre between the current state of affairs or the current state of affairs with extremist religious overtones superimposed on it.

  3. We certainly have a lot to learn from the US and from other successful countries (not necessarily up North) but we must also make sure we don’t copy their methods blindly. Our personality, beliefs and “way of life” are different and things which worked somewhere wouldn’t necessarily work in Algeria. We have to get the spirit and not the technique; and with this regard, the faith you’re talking about is key. You hear us Algerians say we do have faith in our country, in our people and in our religion, but it’s nothing more than talks.

    As to your second paragraph, I was going to say you are pessimistic but then you may actually be right. The choice, if we can call it so, is indeed meagre. The system has managed to create a population which in its majority is hopeless with no plans/dreams. Do we not say that “akhret’ha mout” after all!

    • Obviously faith is key and this is exactly what I was referring to when I said we have a lot to learn from the Yanks!!! This faith and spirit of do it yourself is inspirational to many, and even the Asian tigers have benefitted from it, albeit they seem to be reproducing many of the techniques too!!!

      Anyhow, the trouble and the hardest bit is to find a trick to convert faith into action. I don’t see anyone in the horizon who could lead our people this way – am sure there have been many potential algerian ‘founding fathers’ but somehow they have never made it into history and have never manged to found anything in reality. Perhaps we have been too used to prophets in our part of the World and maybe what we ultimately need is some divine intervention like the prophecies predict!

      Am not pessimistic, am just realistic. I do think that we could go on for a little longer buying time, we could do much in the next 20 years providing we start now. New technologies make it possible to achieve in a few years what was only possible in decades.

  4. This is the exact idea I tried to convey in my last paragraph here.

    In many of Malek Bennabi’s books we find him comparing the Arab/Islamic World and Japan. Both had started their “nahdha” around the same time. Japan, through the Meiji era, had created a powerful empire in a few decades, and is still a powerful civilisation despite two world wars. What about us? Nothing.
    If we’re a passenger in a car, we lack the driver, the GPS and the gasoline. I saved the below caricature from Elkhabar some time ago because I thought it couldn’t be more accurate.

    • Il y a à peine deux jours, j’expliquais (sommairement) à mon fils, comment le Japon et l’Allemagne sont sortis de la seconde guerre mondiale complètement détruits et comment en quelques décennies, ils ont réussi non seulement à se remettre sur pied, mais à dépasser certains pays qui avaient dansé sur leurs ruines… Je pense qu’il n’y a rien d’étonnant à leur réussite si on la résume en un seul mot : travail!
      Nous nous parlons beaucoup et nous faisons très peu. Et je pense que si tout le monde se mettait sérieusement au travail à son niveau, ça irait beaucoup mieux… nul besoin d’être politisé pour ça, dans le sens de “mounkharitt fi hizb”. Chacun peut faire son travail, sérieusement, honnetement, consciencieusement, et laisser la politique aux politiciens. Ceci dit, ce n’est pas aussi évident non plus (de faire son travail sérieusement, honnetement, consciencieusement) quand ta hiérarchie ne connait pas ces mots…

      • oum el kheir , I liked the fact you sit down with your son and talk politics , exchanging ideas since you told him about japan and how they were badly wounded after war world 2 that’s when and where the word ( kaizen) was born from the ashes of the worst conflict humanity has ever known , and the word … Kai means = changes and …zen means good so they created a plan to change for the good , and it is based on making Little small changes on a daily basis , always improving in quality , technology , culture and productivity , they also provide training and supervision that is needed for everybody to achieve the higher standard and all this apply to every Japanese from the CEO to the crew member and janitors and i think we can too if we have the desire and drive and Salamu alaikum.

  5. the reason why , i hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician objective, election, power and privilege are, you hear politicians making promises they won’t come true because they don’t even mean it , and that’s why i hated politics since i was in high school because it’s been for a long time a hypocrite , nasty , bloody game played by some vicious , cheaters and selfish one , let’s make a short stop at Japan , why they are the best at everything , the answer is they apply the principle of continuous improvement in everything ,on everyday life , however in algeria we have a lots of saying ( taa al bailak ) or in french ( apres moi c’est la fin du monde ) which pretty much sums up why many of us algerians M’digoutiine all the time , faith has a lot to do with someone prosperity and miracles won’t fall from the sky , I hope i shade a little bit of light on the dislike of algerians to politics .

    • Dahmane, it is the same everywhere, why should politicians say the truth if they can get away with telling lies? I wish we could stop seeing this as something that is particularly endemic in Algeria because it is the state of affairs pretty much everywhere. Only difference is other countries have managed somehow to establish frameworks whereby multiples centres of influence interact in the system thus keeping each other in check (sort of because there will always be spikes). Why do we seem incapable of doing the same thing? I think our apathy is not helping.

      • no doubt algerianna , it’s everywhere and all over , my concern is my house, someone has to take the trash out .whys and hows of lies told by bull it chens,and why they tink they can get away with it , we trust too much , we are so bad at detecting deceptions for the most part , we believe what others tell us and it is so out of the norm for a sworn officer to lie to us , it’s not apathy of my part is question the authority , try to be informed and like you said check the facts. and my love for el bled is unconditional and still politicians remain forever laiers.

        • I understand dahmane, am algerian too you know and I am like my fellow citizens, completely desillusioned about politics and how it might help us. Actually I would have had more faith in the civil society, you know ordinary algerians who care about the country to work hard everyone in their field or in their job, even raise their children according to our principles, rich algerians investing their wealth in beneficial projetcs you know that kind of stuff. Sadly, everything I see on a day to day basis shatters this hope too. So I don’t know what will happen in the future really. Like everyone, I do hope for the best, but sometimes one cannot help but admit that the future does look bleak. But miracles do happen and I am convinced that the algerian people are unpredictable, am sure once they believe in some national project, it will be very quick providing this national project manages to inspire all algerians like the national football team did last year lol

  6. dear algerianna , my hatred to politics is dues to our government growing so fat and overbearing , they are spending us to oblivion , I recall an old algerian saying and I quote ( starve the beast , it will follow you ) djouaa al Kalb yatabaak., that’s why myself I’m a firm believer in a civil society , and I don’t want to just stand on the side line watching , I believe to keep our selected rather than elected officials on their toes at all time , that’s why we must yell , scream , kick and bite all together for the good of all algerians regardless , we must have the heart of Ben m’hidi , the mind of amirouche and the mouth of boumediene Allah yarham hum , I use the word hate out of frustration and dislike because of the outrageous unequal opportunity , we’re having this quite chit chat because we both care , we’re trying like you said to make algeria a better world for the generation to come and to be a leader in human right , make it a safe port where distress boats come to be rescued , a warm place where nobody goes hungry or cold , the perfect place and I promise we can . given the changes happening in algeria now i gave the president azziz a 7 out 10 .

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  8. Chacun peut faire son travail, sérieusement, honnetement, consciencieusement, et laisser la politique aux politiciens. Ceci dit, ce n’est pas aussi évident non plus (de faire son travail sérieusement, honnetement, consciencieusement) quand ta hiérarchie ne connait pas ces mots…

    C’est une question majeure. Et les problemes commencent justement quand tous ceux qui pourraient bien faire leur travail, bien eduquer leurs enfants, ne pas salir leur environnement, etc. font rien de tout cela. Ca ne decourage pas seulement ceux qui le font mais en plus ca annule leur action qui devient noyee dans la mediocrite ambiante. Et c’est la qu’un ideal commun, une politique, un etat, peuvent intervenir pour encourager/interesser/forcer tout le monde a aller dans le meme sens.
    Je ne sais pas choisir entre une approche top->bottom et une bottom->top. J’ai une preference pour la seconde mais je crois qu’on ne peut se passer de la premiere a partir d’un certain niveau d’evolution de nos comportements individuels.

    given the changes happening in algeria now i gave the president azziz a 7 out 10

    Don’t get me started on si Aziz ya si Dahmane!

    • let’s get together , and go forth to lead the land we all cherish and ask of yourself the same high standard of strength we ask of our servants , there’s no short cut nor do we want a quick fix to all forms of poverty , inequality , all misery , corruption , the road is treacherous and bumpy but the struggle to break free is aljazairi’s nature , what can i do ? to better myself , to make my neighborhood a safe place and most to be a good citizen , I applaud you mnarvi dz and everybody having this blagging blogging about what went wrong and what is the solution , i hope you’re not a true mnarvi taa sah , just kidding .

      • Thanks Dahmane 🙂
        And no, I am probably the calmest Algerian on earth, which is a shame for an Algerian, and that’s why I chose this name, to make me feel like a true Algerian 😉

  9. @mnarvidz , the reason why I’m asking is that we’ve been label of a stubborn , hardheaded ,do not mess with me people even by our own , is it dues to the algerian geography , climate or our struggle against isteemar firanci for a long period , the mentality of do not push me around , just like we say ( maaza WA law taarat ) thanks and salamu alaikum.

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