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Government's challenges in Algeria and Tunisia

After holding two challenging presidential elections, the governments of Algeria and Tunisia are still facing internal political struggles, so that they may not be able to pay to their domestic economic and political crises and reactivate their foreign policy. These crises are in the context of their economies being severely impacted by the negative internal and external consequences arising from the first and second waves of the Arab spring as well as the problems arising from the Covid ۱۹ pandemic.
November 2020
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Mohammad Nik-Khah

After holding two challenging presidential elections, the governments of Algeria and Tunisia are still facing internal political struggles, so that they may not be able to pay to their domestic economic and political crises and reactivate their foreign policy. These crises are in the context of their economies being severely impacted by the negative internal and external consequences arising from the first and second waves of the Arab spring as well as the problems arising from the Covid 19 pandemic. From an external standpoint, both these African states are now encountered with a power crisis in their common neighbor Libya, and the impacts of the Sahara ,the greater Maghreb and west Africa .If Algeria and Tunisia fail to overcome their domestic problems, cannot easily secure their national interests and play their traditional role in determining the political future of their neighbors and stay away from the negative political, security and economic consequences of the power struggle in their contentious surrounding.

The governments of Algeria and Tunisia, as two neighbors in north Africa, after having held two challenging  presidential elections, formed cabinets which were faced with serious  challenges since formation. Some reports from inside the power structure of these two countries, show the continuation of usual differences between the government and nation and occurrence of differences among the presidents, prime ministers parliaments, parties and the protesters for changes in the members of the new cabinet .

 The governments of these two countries in north Africa have managed to hold the presidential elections ( in Tunisia on October 5, in Algeria on December 11) in any way possible , following all ups and downs  for the introduction of administrations, and to obtain their parliaments' approval. However, both of the presidents are still facing serious challenges inside their governments and with the people, so that they may not be able to easily pay to their domestic economic and political crises and activate their foreign policy.

Popular protests in Algeria led to the resignation and ouster of Bouteflika, 92, who held the presidential post for 20 years in this country. The Algerian protesters took to the streets on last Friday (date)in continuation of their weekly protests after a several month cease, for the 85th time since the start of the popular movement in this country. In response to the request of dialogue by AbdelmajidTebboune, the new Algerian president, the protesters chanted slogans for fundamental change in the political structure of this country and freedom of the prisoners of conscience as pre-conditions for entering any talks with the president.

The Algerian people have held these protests regularly every week  on Tuesdays and Fridays all over the country, especially in the capital Algiers since Feb 22, 2019 the time when Bouteflika resigned.

The protesters believe even the presidential election on December 11 for the election ofTebboune as substitute for Bouteflika , was a revisionist move by the former government  to reconstruct its power in the new structure. They consider the introduction of the AbdelazizDjerad government, former university professor, as prime minister by the new president in the last December  as continuation of the same policy. It seems improbable that the people of this country stop their protests for achieving their years long political demands. In addition, some Islamist parties like Hamd, AlNahda and the Justice and Development of Algeria parties have declared in their protests that not only are they opposed to their members entering the new administration,but also are opposed to the constitutional reforms and participating in the reforms the draft of which has been approved by the government and parliament of Algeria and is supposed to be put on a referendum in the first half of November. These parties believe that the constitution must be rewritten. They complain that the president has not kept his promise made during the swearing-in ceremony to facilitate and pave the way for all-out economic and political development and that his counsel has been only with the elements inside  the system. At present, the president and prime minister are preparing for holding the constitutional reforms on the first of November .It seems, despite all objections, the government shall be able to hold the election even if by a low turnout . This is what that keeps the fire under the ashes of the Algerian developments still alive; a country that the oil and gas price slump and corona crises, like two blades of the same pair of scissors,  haveseverely impacted its oil dependent economy. Besides, in addition to the Libyan terrorism crisis and coup in Mali , another neighboring country, resurfacing of the festering wounds of the French colonialism and the eastern Mediterranean developments , have posed great challenges to this country and maybe because of this Mr.Tebboune, in a colored effort to reform the constitution and reduce the military commanders engaged in politics, may have to eventually put talks with the protesters for resolving domestic problems on his agenda, and at the same time in the foreign relations, regard  warmer relations with the US as the rival and gradual substitute of France investments and security cooperation.

Unlike the past and now goings-on in Algeria, the path of politics in neighboringTunisia is another way. Instead of intensification of the differences between the government and people, the Tunisian people ( especially after the reforms andmetamorphosis carried out inside the Al Nahda party which began in 2016) are not at loggerheads with their government for forming the cabinet. The crisis in this country has emerged in the form of differences inside the government members for shaping the cabinet. Emergence of contradictory political rhetoric, especially among the establishment and political elites in recent years, has caused the formed administrations to seem instable. In the recent most case, these differences caused a strictly partisan situation in parliament which further complicated the formation of the coalition cabinet in the country after the resignation of the former government headed by Al-Fakhfakh (which took place after immense pressure by Al Nahda and threat to take back its vote of confidence from the government). Eventually, by mediation from RachedGhannouchi and formation of a four member committee , including the president, speaker of the parliament, prime minister and Tunisia's businesses representative, a relative agreement among the ruling bodies formed  for introducing the new government and the president agreed to introduce Hisham Al Mashishi, the interior minister,  instead of Al-Fakhfakh for forming the cabinet, who was introduced to the government after intra-structural talks and threat by the president to dissolve the parliament in case it did not give its vote to the introduced government. The Tunisian parliament gave Al Mashishi vote of confidence on the first of September by 134 affirmativeagainst 67 negative.

The swearing in of the Al Mashishi cabinet was held while as he said  the Tunisian economic situation is tough, the economic indexes at  a hazardous point and the political and social instability are a detriment to the realization of the targeted goals for the development of the country. Al Mashishi called his administration the Salvage Administration whose priority is of the economic and financial revitalization of Tunisia, and enumerated the requirements for this as serious work and activity, unity and coherence of all forces for saving Tunisia. However, there is still news from Tunisia which despite the vote of confidence of the parliament and holding the swearing in ceremony of the new administration, the differences among the parliament the president and the prime minister have no yet been fully cleared and there is still pressure especially from the president for amending the cabinet lineup.

Domestic political struggle in these two countries are, while,  the internal and external consequences arising from the first and second Arab spring as well as the pains emanating fromthe Covid-19 pandemic have severely impacted their economies. From an external standpoint, both these African states are facing a power crisis in their common neighbor, Libya. From the south, too, both are impacted by the Sahara, the greater Maghreb, and west Africa crises, which the coup in Mali is the most recent case. Rapid developments in the Mediterranean and the new political rope pulling of the regional and international powers in this sea are directly related to the security and interests of these two countries, and if Algeria and Tunisia fail to overcome their domestic problems, cannot easily secure their national interests and play their traditional role in determining  the political future of their neighbors and stay away from the negative political, security and economic consequences of the power struggle in their contentious surrounding.

 

   (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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