Nicknamed “Tebboune Cocaine” by the demonstrators, elected in a poll that gathered at most 8% of the electoral body – most of which soldiers, police officers and government employees coerced into voting or face disciplinary measures – the electoral farce that saw Tebboune appointed on 12th December 2019 continues to be denounced by millions of Algerians who have been demonstrating on a weekly basis since the 22nd of February.
Abdelmadjid Tebboune might be recognized by Western countries for purely business reasons, however, at home, Algerians simply do not recognize him as the legitimate president of the country.
Across the country’s cities, millions marched on the 17th of January for the 48th consecutive Friday to denounce an electoral farce imposed by powerful army figures, but also to remind the regime that Algerians aren’t giving up on their demands. For the majority, the “military’s candidate” only represents himself – and his cronies; a dodgy mix of business oligarchs, corrupt military figures and their immediate entourage.
A recurring theme emerged, “Abdelmadjid Tebboune only represents himself”, as described by Farida G, a demonstrator our reporter talked to, “Tebboune Cocaine [a reference to the allegations made against his son] should resign and allow a democratic transition led by genuine patriots”, she added.
Algerians are far from convinced that a politician who served under disgraced president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a politician who has alleged links to the cocaine trade, can bring genuine change to the country.
On the 12th of December, election day, polling stations were under heavy police protection. The voters the regime had announced would flood polling stations were nowhere to be seen. Abroad, things got even more humiliating for the regime, the few voters who dared show up at polling stations were verbally lynched by members of the diaspora. Hiding their faces under shouts of “traitors”, “cowards”, and “dogs of the regime”.
The president’s son links to narco-trafficking
While Abdelmadjid Tebboune was being sworn in, his son Khaled Tebboune remained in custody, according to the authorities, accused of being linked to a major criminal enterprise. A network of politicians, judges and regime loyalists operating in the cocaine trade, the discovery of the criminal enterprise had occurred when 701 kilograms of cocaine were intercepted at Oran’s port on the 28th of May 2018, following a tip from the Spanish authorities.
Thereafter, the scandal turned political, exposing complicity in the judiciary. Apartments, houses, millions of foreign currency in cash, the main suspect, Kamel Chikhi, alias the Butcher, was very generous with his “friends”. Without warning them, the meat importer had filmed his regular meetings with magistrates, prosecutors, sons and daughters of politicians, including Khaled Tebboune, the son of the recently appointed president. It is unclear if Khaled Tebboune was ever jailed in the absence of material evidence.
Fake terrorists to scare the West, ‘baltaguias’ to intimidate the pro-democracy demonstrators.
A senior source within the security apparatus confided to the Algiers Herald how the authorities were and continue to falsely announce the capture or killing of supposed terrorists – twice to trice a week through the regime’s affiliated media. The aim of such a move being twofold: scare the West and in particular neighbouring European nations whose worst nightmare would be yet another migratory crisis and the spread of the Islamic State’s influence on one hand; and on the other hand, scare the Algerian people, who in the 90s, experienced a decade of Islamic fundamentalism linked terrorism.
In addition to these manoeuvres, the regime started resorting to “baltaguias“, essentially paid ex-convicts, local drug dealers, sexual offenders and pretty much everyone in between. The state-sponsored delinquents assaulted women, children and the elderly, in some instance using knives, in others using batons, under the protective watch of police officers who appeared to be encouraging their behaviour.
A number of demonstrators’ sustained eye injuries as a result of the police intentionally firing rubber bullets while aiming for their heads.
To identify, name and shame the delinquents, a campaign was promptly organised across social media. Resulting in the delinquents being identified as local drug dealers. Some were drug addicts, who the authorities provided drugs to in exchange of assaulting the demonstrators, according to testimonies that emerged on social media. Among the offenders, some were identified as undercover police officers.
A police officer who accepted to speak to our reporter, under the condition of anonymity, admitted that he and his colleagues were instructed to dress casually and assault the demonstrators on election day. Orders he condemned but felt obliged to execute, disciplinary measures would have otherwise been imposed, “I got to feed my family and if I don’t obey the orders I’d lose everything, including my home”, he confided to our reporter.
What’s next for the ‘hirak’?
The ‘hirak’, as it became to be known, doesn’t appear to have been weakened by the appointment of Abdelmadjid Tebboune, if anything the regime has merely bought itself extra time while it blatantly – and recklessly – seeks to sow division based on ethnic lines, with the aim of weakening the movement.
The regime has shown that it isn’t willing to part from its old ways, with Bouteflika-era ministers still kept at key government roles. With the new president himself having served under Bouteflika. It has also shown that it is willing to pay delinquents to do its bidding.
In parallel, the regime has started simulating a dialogue with the Hirak, a carefully crafted show publicised 24/7 on the national television and the regime’s propaganda arm, the APS, portraying characters on the regime’s payroll as being “opposition” figures.