Political transition in Algeria: an outcome of actors, not a constitutional picture

by Imad Atoui


Analysts still confused! The fate of Algerian political transition will be determined by the outcomes between Maximalists and Constitutionalists, not according to the constitution.

Starting from February 22, Algerians have been asking for system change. After more than eight months, commentators and analysts are still confused about using constitution as road-map in their analyses to determine and argue the fate of the Algerian Hirak. Furthermore, matching the current political scene with some articles, is only bringing the constitution out of its real framework.

Constitutions are made for the founding principles of the regime. Algerian constitution and other States' charters alike, are supreme laws designated to establish the basis of a political system and draw the basis for other laws. Politically, the constitution is generally defined as a document that shape the power of different political institutions. Known as`` Constitutional design``

This supreme document is made to serve a functional government. Algerian constitution defines the structure of the government, as it separates powers and responsibilities between the government branches. None of its articles touches upon circumstances like revolution or large-scale protests. This Implies that the validity of the constitution is connected to a normally functioning of institutions.

The masses that have been taking to the street for more than eight months, however, have already removed the effectiveness of the constitution. Despite different interpretations from lawyers and calls from the military institution that sought, from the beginning, to return to the highest state's document, the ongoing movement has confirmed that the constitution is outdated in this case.

Regardless to the game between the real political actor and the following of free-riders, the argument must be drawn on at least two factual levels. On the first level, the governing elite knew a split in its political body: from February to Marsh, the governing elite was concordant about the fifth mandate given to Bouteflika, while the political discourse has later known a new twist. In April, a new era introduced two governments, one in jail and the other is still running the country.

On the second level, even though considering what is in the constitution, the myth of the transition period had constitutionally exceeded its legal time. The Algerian constitution states that, in the event the president resigns “the president of the Council of the Nation shall assume the function of the Head of State for a maximum ninety days”. it was not until September that the re-election was announced.  From April till now is about eight months!

The Algerian transition is between two groups. Currently, the evolvement of the Hirak is characterized into two distinctly contrasting poles: Maximalists versus the Constitutionalists. The former persists the radical demands for system change, while Constitutionalists are free-riders who present the will of the remaining elite of the previous regime.

The political outcome will be determined by the two antithetical political poles. From September, the announced of presidential elections has officially come out. In October, five candidates were accepted -out of 22. Candidates, actually, are not able to start their electoral campaign due to the rejection of the masses to the elections. In the flip side, huge number of Algerians still taking to the street crying out for radical demands. Despite the small number of the Constitutionalists and their opponents on the public base, their opponents, so far, could not stifle the process of the upcoming elections.

Maximalists still mobilizing huge masses in the protests with different tactics to hinder Constitutionalists call for elections. Constitutionalists, however, assert on elections as a solution for the current political stagnation. One month left to December for the presidential elections, two opposite poles would disclose what will be.

In fact, it is not easy to anticipate what will be as outcomes, nevertheless the back and forth bargaining between the Maximalists and the Constitutionalists will presumably know different strategies. Maximalists seeking for different strategies to cut off the election process, while we do not know what the reaction from the Constitutionalists will be if the elections do not take place within a specific time. No one can predict what the reaction of the Maximalists will be as well if the elections take place on time.

Analyzing the current case of Algeria needs a close eye on the ongoing events. From the very beginning, the political game was quite clear that it does not match with the articles of the Algerian constitution. The story is simply between huge masses of people taking the street asking for radical change, and political elite wants to rejuvenate itself.