Algeria, country of the young ruled by the old
Nassim Brahimi - 13/04/2012
Algeria is about to prepare the organisation of the legislative elections announced for Thursday the 10th of May 2012 by President Bouteflika.
The “Arab Spring” storm passed by without harming much the Algerian regime. Despite all expectations, issues and date, the regime has been able to anchor its presence over time through a series of “preventive” measures taken in an instinctive movement of self-defence at a time when the regime realised that the surge of anger exceeded the limits of social demands.
In Algeria, the year 2012 will be the elections year but it will also be the year of the fiftieth anniversary of independence. We are far from the sixties’ of last century when the current president, now aged 75, was considered as the youngest foreign minister in the world as he was barely 26 years old.
The paradox in Algeria is that the Independence Day happens to be on the 5th of July, coinciding with Youth Day. In other words, the Algerians celebrate everything at the same time, freedom and youth in a symbolism recalling that November’s revolution had to give the people their freedom and to the youth, their country. Fifty years after the independence, the objective data show quite a different thing and give a negative idea about the interest given to this segment of the population that represents 60% of the Algerian people.
The paradox is also that Algeria is a young country that suffers from the old age of its leaders that are now out of the game and unable to understand the requirements of a new generation that has substituted the myths of the Cold War with Facebook chats. It is a new generation that has replaced nationalist illusions with individual reality that only considers the outcome and only the outcome of any movement.
Official statistics reveal that the current leaders in Algeria have gone beyond the legal retirement aged fixed at sixty years. In Algeria, it is quite rare to find a young person performing duties among the President’s officials, or as a simple manager, local councillor or a Minister’s assistant. Young people mainly work in the private sector. Then, where are those youngsters who, according to statistics, represent more that half of a population of 36 million people?
The absence of young people on the Algerian political scene can be explained if we consider the refusal of the generation of the Revolution to pass over the reins of power, to step down in favour of the generation of the independence. The Revolution generation still suffers from a paternalistic complex that led it to set itself as the guardian of the nation out of fear of its’ children’s “recklessness”.
Moreover, even if today, this generation decided to step aside and let the youth take its place, it will never find anyone capable of ruling the country because fifty years of exclusion and false slogans have made the young Algerians breed a sort of disaffection with anything political.
There is currently not a single party in Algeria, whatever its size, capable of mobilising a thousand young people for a rally because there is practically no youngster who adheres to politics given the competition that the “elderly” represent. Do we still have faith in those who have exploited us for political purposes? Youth has been turned into a pure political slogan that we take out of the archives when necessary exactly like the women representation among the authorities.
For its part, the Algerian youth has learnt the lesson: young people know they are welcome in politics as long as they do not aspire to go far and as long as it does not bring out its claws to change the established order.
The best proof the youth’s disaffection for political parties and the distance that separates the latter from youth is perhaps what happened during the Oil Revolt. No Algerian party, small or big, has dared take to the streets to discuss the issue with the young protesters as no party has enough credibility or legitimacy, or representativeness among the people of the youth in order to do so.
However, the Algerian youth was strongly present in the protests organised by civil society with all its formations. Youth has struggled to have its own place enabling it to express itself and defend its rights. Algerian youth has compensated the closure of political horizons by opening way to social action even if it occurs outside any institutional or official framework. Today, youth is inventing other means of expression that it holds to assert itself. It can therefore represent a strong blow. Political parties are in fact seeking to ally with youth organisations and their associations in order to carry their electoral campaigns through for the upcoming legislative elections.
Preparing to celebrate its fifty years of independence, Algeria is also preparing to enter a period of generational conflict, especially since most of the actors of the Revolution generation have left the political scene, often because of death. The Algerian youth is therefore obliged to take part in politics in order to help the country’s progress and put its politics up again. Even if the government is reluctant to open its doors to the country’s largest demographic group, enabling them to contribute to the build up the country, passing the torch to those who need to feel they belong to this country and that they are capable of assuming responsibilities and prove their loyalty towards the Revolution, is a historic inevitability that should be someday considered.
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech