The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Boutef 4 Life

MERIP has a piece on the upcoming Algerian presidential elections, highlighting that now, across North Africa, rulers are in place for life:

Middle East Report Online: Introducing Algeria’s President-for-Life by Ahmed Aghrout and Yahia H. Zoubir:

"Until recently, Algeria was the North African exception -- Article 74 of its 1996 constitution set two five-year terms as the limit on the mandate of a given president. On November 12, 2008, however, the parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve several constitutional amendments, the most important of which removed the stipulations of Article 74. This far-reaching amendment opened the way for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a third successive term, as he will do on April 9, despite his poor health and controversial performance. Algerians are convinced that, as in Tunisia or Egypt, the result of this election is a foregone conclusion.

Like Qaddafi, Bouteflika and his supporters have grounded their campaign for constitutional revision in notions of popular sovereignty. Because Algerians have elected Bouteflika twice, the regime’s story goes, they should not be hindered by a mere piece of paper like the constitution from keeping him around for life. Like its North African counterparts, the Algerian regime claims that it has jump-started economic development so remarkable that the people insist they remain in office to complete the task. Meanwhile, the removal of term limits has ended any semblance of constitutional checks and balances in Algeria."

Amidst massive apathy and rejection of this sham electoral process, Bouteflika has an interest in getting as high a turnout as possible to legitimize his continued rule as "the people's will." He recently plumbed new depths, as Le Quotidien d'Algerie reports, by urging the masses to get out the vote and "make him blush in front of the foreigners":

Hier, lors de son meeting de guelma, le président-candidat-président Bouteflika a exhorté la population à voter massivement et à le faire rougir devant l’opinion internationale.
Oui, oui! Il a dit exactement ceci: ” Faites moi rougir le visage devant les étrangers en allant voter en masse!”
En fait, le terme “hamrouli wadjhi” dans notre parler algérien signifie exactement le contraire de sa traduction en français. “Faites-moi rougir le visage”, en derdja, veut dire faites moi rougir de plaisir, c’est à dire ne m’humiliez pas en boycottant ce vote, plébiscitez moi!
Mais au délà de ces nuances de langage, nous découvrons, si nous ne le savions déjà, que tout ce qui compte pour Bouteflika et le régime qui l’a béni, est l’opinion que se font de lui les opinions internationales. Le peuple algérien est le dernier de ses soucis. Une vraie république couscoussière!

My translation:

Yesterday, during his rally in Guelma, the president-candidate-president Bouteflika urged the populace to vote massively and to make him blush in front of international public opinion.
Yes, yes! He said this exactly: "Make my face blush in front of the foreigners by going to vote in numbers!"
In fact, the term hamrouli wadjhi in our Algerian dialect signifies exactly the opposite as the French expression. "Make my face blush" in Derdja (dialect) means "make me blush with pleasure," that is, "do not humiliate me by boycotting this election, but rather elect me by an overwhelming majority."
Beyond the nuances of this discourse, we discover - we knew already - that the only thing that counts for Bouteflika and the regime that has backed him is international opinion. The Algerian people are the least of his worries. [We are] a couscous republic!

Who will rid us of these decrepit old men...