Nearly 25 million Algerians are called on Sunday to endorse a constitutional reform which aims to turn the page of the popular protest movement “Hirak”, in the absence of the initiator of this referendum, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, hospitalized in l ‘foreign.
Mr. Tebboune, a heavy smoker and 74 years old, was transferred in the utmost discretion Wednesday to Germany for “in-depth medical examinations” after the announcement of suspected cases of Covid-19 disease in his entourage.
His condition is “stable and not worrying”, according to the presidency who gave no further details.
In a message relayed Saturday evening by the official APS agency, Mr. Tebboune assured that “the Algerian people will, once again, be at the rendezvous with history to make the expected change, Sunday, November 1, through the referendum on the constitutional amendment with a view to instituting a new era capable of fulfilling the hopes of the Nation and the aspirations of our people for a strong, modern and democratic State ”.
The date of the referendum was not chosen by chance: November 1 marks the anniversary of the start of the War of Independence against the French colonial power (1954-1962).
Polling stations open from 8:00 a.m. local (07:00 GMT) to 7:00 p.m. local (6:00 p.m. GMT).
The victory of the “yes” is hardly in doubt as the electoral campaign, which left the population largely indifferent, was one-sided. The “no” supporters were unable to hold rallies.
The only issue is the participation rate.
During the presidential election of December 12, 2019, it stood at 39.93%, the lowest rate of all pluralist presidential elections in the history of Algeria, making Mr. Tebboune a poor president. elected and therefore in search of legitimacy.
“It’s a referendum from the top, a Caesarist plebiscite,” said Massensen Cherbi, doctor of law from the University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas.
“A Caesarist plebiscite”
As of his inauguration, Mr. Tebboune made the revision of the Constitution, the umpteenth since the accession to independence, his flagship project and extended his hand to the demonstrators of the “popular authentic blessed Hirak”.
This is the expression devoted by the regime to a movement whose demands it now considers satisfied, today qualifying its supporters as “counter-revolutionaries”.
The protesters rejected “in substance and form” an initiative perceived as a “change of facade” and advocate a boycott of the referendum.
Born in February 2019 from an immense fed up with Algerians opposed to a 5th term of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the “Hirak” calls for the “dismantling of the system” in place since 1962. Mr. Bouteflika was forced to resign in April 2019 but the system is still there.
In fact, the new Constitution, while putting forward a series of rights and freedoms, does not offer any major political change: it maintains most of the presidential regime and even broadens the prerogatives of the army.
“Nothing has changed, we remain in an ultra presidentialist regime”, notes the constitutionalist Massensen Cherbi.
During the electoral campaign, those holding the “yes”, namely members of the government, the parties of the former ruling coalition which supported Mr. Bouteflika and the public media, hammered out that the project laid the foundations of an “Algeria news”.
The Minister of Communication and government spokesman, Ammar Belhimer, believes that the people will go “en masse” to the polls to lay “a new stone in the process of nation-building and thwart the maneuvers of the enemies of Algeria ”.
Twenty months after the outbreak of “Hirak”, the ballot is a challenge for a movement weakened by a campaign of repression described as “implacable” by Amnesty International, and by the forced interruption of demonstrations in mid-March due to the coronavirus health crisis.
Some 90 people (activists, bloggers, journalists) are behind bars for facts related to the protest, most for Facebook posts, according to the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD).
“Today, the regime intends to statufier the Hirak while chasing its militants to prevent them from relaunching the movement in the street once the sanitary conditions improve”, analyzes the Algerian journalist Akram Belkaïd on his blog. “The current repression also aims to prevent the ballot from undergoing a new massive boycott because that would discredit the incantations on” new Algeria “.”