Knighthood in Democracy


Abdelmalek Sellal, Algeria’s Prime Minister (and prime humorist), has recently called the presidential election candidates to safeguard the nation’s unity and to be democracy knights.

In Algeria, having different opinions is sometimes considered a threat to the nation’s unity and one could easily be flagged as unpatriotic should he/she display a behaviour which is not accepted as the national norm (don’t ask me what this means).
My point today is not about the nation and its unity. It is rather with the democracy knights that Sellal wants us (I say us as I am a candidate too) to be.

knightsI believe the Prime Minister meant that the candidates should behave and display whatever good values go with the knighthood concept in our modern minds: chivalry, loyalty, honour, courage, courtesy, etc. And that would be a great thing should the candidates listen to him.

The thing is History tells us that knights weren’t always good. A story that is fresher in my memory, George R. R. Martin’s “A song of Ice and Fire”, even tells us how dirty knights can get. But we’re not living an epic fantasy and the matter is more serious even though it is about the throne in El Mouradia.

In the early 90s, some Algerian politician (I believe it was Sid Ahmed Ghozali before he discovered he was an opponent to the regime) said everybody should play by the game rules. Which could be considered a fair statement if the rules were fair and known to everyone that is.

Today around a 100 people have retrieved the endorsement forms from the ministry of interior and want us to believe they are seriously going to run for the presidency. I expect only a minority would get the 60k endorsements necessary to maintain their candidacy.

And whether we have 1 or 10 candidates, the one to hold the throne would be the one the system chooses.
Sellal has been visiting the country East to West and North to South telling everybody how great is Algeria’s situation, how stability should be our only objective, and how everything we have is the result of Bouteflika’s action. So it’s obvious he’s campaigning, if not for Bouteflika then for his appointed successor. FLN’s secretary-general, Amar Saidani, in his own way, campaigns as well for Bouteflika. And so do many other persons and organizations. And, should I mention it, Bouteflika hasn’t declared… yet. This could be loyalty but greed is closer to it if you ask me, and let’s not speak of courtesy and honour.

One candidate declared he’d turn Algeria into Africa’s Germany and one said he wouldn’t disclose his program lest it would be stolen. I don’t think that lying is very honourable.

There might be some candidates who truly believe in their programs and do seek the country and its people’s best, but how would they do to win against snakes without playing by their rules.

Algerian politics is not a wonderful field to play in, but let’s not forget that politics in democracies is scarcely different. True knights are not meant to mingle with politics unless they’re ready to lose their souls.

“Democracy knights” made me think of Algeria’s public TV’s program “Qur’an knights”. I thought why trouble with endorsements, campaigns and elections? Let’s make it a reality TV show and ask the people to vote using their mobiles (3G mobiles now), and for the last 10, get them to joust and the last to remain on his horse would be our president.

Wouldn’t this be fair and chivalrous?

4 thoughts on “Knighthood in Democracy

  1. Love the idea of a reality show. In a big house, throw in some “big brother” and co. activities and see who will survive eviction by the public. Karma Belkassem can be the presenter. The money from SMSs can go to charities, and we will save the billions spent on campaigning.
    I am less keen on the jousting though.

  2. I should read newspapers in Arabic more often, ‘fursan aDimoqratiya’ is a lot more incongruous, and therefore funny, in Arabic than it already is in translation🙂

    This “more often the one to hold the throne would be the one the system chooses” is essentially what I’ve been told since I got here, but then the election circus opened and now there only seems to be talks of a clash of titans resurfacing. Do you think ‘clans’ or two clans are fighting to take the lead, or that as you suggest this is only a big reality TV show to entertain the nation and there is no bras de fer?

  3. Loundja,

    The jousting part is the most interesting: the man and his foe and nothing else.
    Who’s this Karma Belkassem?

    NG,
    I’ve always felt that some words and concepts sounded more “natural” in one language than another.

    Though I know nothing, and most of us know nothing dare I add, I think there is indeed a conflict within the regime. The conflict is not about changing the regime but rather defining or say re-drawing the influence zones. All parties (the army, presidence and the drs) will eventually find a compromise that would safeguard, not the country’s unity, but their interests and their clients’ loyalty. I call it a circus because nothing will change at the end (for us I mean) but some weaklings within or close to the regime might be very sorry at the end.

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