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National Rally for Democracy (RND)

Bouteflika and Major General Mohamed Mediene, the powerful head of the intelligence and security services, sought to reshape Algerian politics into two currents: one conservative/Islamist led by PM Belkhadem and a second modernist/nationalist led by Ouyahia. There was definite agreement that Mediene is backing Ouyahia.

In the 2007 current campaign for national parliament, the National Liberation Front (FLN), National Rally for Democracy (RND) and Movement for a Society at Peace (MSP) -- the presidential coalition -- supported the continuation of President Bouteflika's "program," which is broadly defined as economic and political reform. Their perceived need not to stray far from Bouteflika's so-called program for economic and political reform has the downside of making it difficult for these parties to advocate specific remedies. The Algerian political establishment would watch closely how well the RND performed in the 2007 elections, since many considered the RND's fortunes intertwined with those of former PM Ouyahia's chances of succeeding President Bouteflika. Ouyahia was prepared to serve in any leadership capacity -- be it prime minister, vice president, or eventually president. The RND, alone among major Algerian political parties in his view, did not face internal strife. The RND stood to gain from any FLN missteps -- just as the FLN scored handsomely over the RND in the 2002 legislative elections when the RND was the largest political party in government. The RND performed unexpectedly well in the December 2006 senate elections, so the party had both the momentum and opportunity to score well in May 2007, since "Belkhadem has his hands full with FLN internal strife."

Bouteflika and the head of the intelligence and security directorate, Major General Mohamed Mediene, actively supported the formation of two competing Algerian electoral currents: one conservative/Islamist as embodied by Belkhadem, and the other "modernist" as embodied by the RND. There was little difference between Djaballah and Belkhadem "other than the clothes that they wear." As for the MSP, its foreign (Muslim Brotherhood) origins ensured that it could not compete over the long term for the Algerian Islamist vote. The FLN "leftists" had by and large joined the Workers' Party, so the FLN had become increasingly conservative and Islamist. Meanwhile, the RND remained the modernist, anti-Islamist party. While it was important that both currents work together for the good of the nation, every car could only have one driver: "Those behind the curtain" (i.e. Mediene) "want RND doing the driving".

Ouyahia had originally suggested to Bouteflika that any proposed constitutional amendments pass through parliament rather than by popular referendum. The FLN did not support the parliamentary approach, however, so Bouteflika did not pursue it. The 2016 amendments require the president to nominate a prime minister from the largest party in parliament.

Ouyahia was Mediene's choice to become either prime minister or vice president. To prevent Belkhadem from challenging Ouyahia for the presidency before the office of vice president was created, Chikhoune posited that Mediene intended to make Belkhadem senate president following the May elections.

As senate president, Belkhadem would briefly become acting president should Bouteflika die in office, but would be barred by the constitution from being a candidate in the elections that would follow. Bouteflika and Mediene had encouraged Ouyahia after he stepped down as prime minister to shore up his base by strengthening and consolidating the RND.

Mediene was pushing for the creation of a Belkhadem-led conservative/Islamist current alongside a "nationalist" movement under Ouyahia. Belkhadem was a spent force politically, and Mediene did not want him to remain prime minister following the May 2007 elections. Ouyahia, as Mediene's leading candidate to succeed Bouteflika, could be named to that post until the constitution could be amended to create a vice presidency. Ouyahia was being given time to strengthen the RND and the only result that mattered in the May elections was the RNDQ,s score, since Ouyahia's fortunes were linked to it.

The RND was the one major political party (with the possible exception of the socialist Workers' Party) that does not visibly suffer from internal divisions. Provided that situation holds through the elections, Ouyahia will be strengthened politically. Certainly the RND gathered momentum from the senate elections.

Ouyahia was Mediene's choice to succeed Bouteflika. The theme of two competing currents in Algerian politics, and Bouchouareb's clear linkage of it to Djaballah's misfortunes, was the best theory to date of the direction in which Algerian politics was headed.

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Page last modified: 22-02-2017 16:26:55 ZULU