• Algiers

  • Friday, December 22, 2023 at 9:10 AM
    Last Update : Friday, December 22, 2023 at 9:10 AM

Draft Law on Political Parties Sparks Controversy in Algeria

(AWP) - Controversy grips Algeria as the government prepares to hand down a new draft law regulating the activities of political parties in the North African country.

Politicians are concerned about expected additions to the chapter on the freedoms, powers and rights of political parties, and the conditions set for partisan practices.

Some of the political parties have rejected the draft on the grounds that it “contains items restricting partisan activities and allowing the authorities to interfere in the structure of parties.”

Moftah Hassan, an Algerian lawmaker and member of the legal committee at the People’s National Assembly, however, believes that the proposed law aims to bridge the gaps existing within the current law, while at the same time preserving the credibility of parties and the country's higher interests.

“The draft law on political parties has not yet been referred to parliament. We are waiting for the referral in order to scrutinize its provisions, so that we can devise a law that serves the legislative and executive branches, while meeting the ambitions of the higher authorities in the country. Hopefully, we will have a law regulating the activities of political parties, in line with country’s policies,” he said.

“We will work on bridging all existing gaps in the effective law to maintain the credibility of the parties, and to protect the country’s higher interests, principles, and territory from any direct or indirect threats to stability,” noted Moftah.

The government has asked the parties to submit their remarks before the final drafting state, but some parties suspect that the bill aims to interfere in and restrict parties’ internal organization and political alliances.

Meanwhile, other parties say that the law will be crucial for fine-tuning partisan action in Algeria and contributing to a change in the political spectrum. They believe that it could help certain parties step into the spotlight, while others might take a step back or even disappear if they cannot adapt.

One of the new items in the proposed draft holds that political parties that boycott two successive elections will be disbanded, causing certain parties to refuse it over these restrictions.

“As a legally-approved political party, we reject this draft altogether. The parties must have the freedom to make decisions, manage their own affairs and practice politics,” said Abdelkader Qarwsan, a leading member of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) Party.

“I believe this draft law was meant to place restrictions on the parties’ political activities. In principle, the authorities seek to trim partisan freedoms and draw their own political map in Algeria,” he added.

Algeria experienced the multi-party system for the first time in 1989, following a political and social crisis the previous year, when  citizens took to the streets in what came to be known as the ‘October 5 incidents,’ under then-president Chadli Bendjedid.

The crisis resulted in the writing of a new constitution in 1989, marking the end of the single-party stage and a move to political pluralism. Under this constitution, a law was enacted to allow the establishment of political parties under the ‘law on associations.” However, the law did not include the word ‘parties,’ speaking only of ‘associations of a political nature’.

Several parties were established under this law, but the country fell into a vortex of violence after the victory of an extremist Islamist party in a parliamentary election in 1992 was rescinded. The party’s members resorted to arms, and Algeria was rocked by bloody incidents through the 1990’s.

The law on political parties was amended in 2011 under former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

According to Algerian interior ministry statistics, there are 45 legal parties in the country; only 13 have representatives in parliament, while five parties dominate the parliamentary majority.