‘Liberté Algérie’ investigation reveals regime’s unlawful pre-election practices

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The trade union guys gave us forms to sign. In return, they promised us salary increases and other benefits” said a public bank employee who spoke under the condition of anonymity.

Administrations, public enterprises, trade unions, associations and other civil society organisations have been infiltrated to help the candidate Bouteflika in his quest to collect the 60,000 necessary signatures for the presidential election of April 18th.

The means of the State have been mobilised according to the newspaper that carried out the investigation. Officials are under tremendous pressure, and sometimes even outright blackmailed, to force them to sign for Bouteflika.

Bouteflika’s campaign teams have been using ethically questionable tricks. For example, in agencies of a Social Security organization, employees have recently been “invited” to provide their ID. “We accepted because our officials are used to asking us for our identification. But we learned later that our cards were used to fill the signatures forms endorsing current president Abdelaziz Bouteflika”.

For other employees of public institutions, the pressure is of another kind. Trade unionists affiliated to the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) are responsible for approaching employees to sign the signature forms. “The trade unionists gave us forms to sign. In return, they promised us salary increases and other benefits” explained the employee of the public bank.

In other cases, officials have even been summoned for the purpose of the election campaign. For example, senior directors, communication officers and executives from a number of government departments and wilayas have been asked by their supervisors to join the national leadership or the local leadership of Bouteflika.

Some do it opportunistically; whilst others are persuaded through the fear of losing their jobs and privileges that ensue. Employees on non-permanent contracts have been invited to support Bouteflika, in return for permanent contracts and promises of other benefits, according to Liberté Algérie’s investigation.

For his part, the Minister of Labour, Mourad Zemali, recently said that banks would not legally challenge young entrepreneurs who have not paid their debts. One way for the authorities to try to convince young people to vote, but more importantly to vote for Bouteflika.

The public television channels, radios and government newspapers have already started the electoral campaign for the benefit of Bouteflika. This is achieved through the uninterrupted coverage of departmental activities while always quoting the “achievements” of Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Even walis have been instructed to start campaigning in the public space, public appearances closely followed by the press.

In Algiers and elsewhere, posters of the head of state with the quote “Tous Bouteflika” are stuck on university buses’ windows. 

Giant portraits of Abdelaziz Bouteflika also adorn public buildings across the main roads of the country’s cities. Everything is done to impose the invisible president.

Oddly enough, this is happening with the complete complicity of the bodies responsible for monitoring the presidential election. The Audiovisual Regulatory Authority, which should in principle regulate the National TV channel, appears to be unbothered and remains inert.

The body, chaired by Abdelwahab Derbal, preferred to remind opposition candidates that they must “provide evidence” of their accusations when in fact the evidence is there for everybody to see.

(Adapted from a Liberte Algerie investigative report)

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