An effective virus to stem the dispute

Algerian power is taking advantage of the pandemic to try to bury once and for all the popular movement that shook it for a year, until its recent suspension, and prevent any recurrence, analysts believe.

Since the start of the health crisis, repression has continued to fall on opponents, independent journalists and media and Internet users.

At the same time, the hasty adoption of legislation criminalizing the dissemination of false information and hate speech on the Internet raises fears of an attempt to “muzzle” freedom of expression.

“It is the return to the iron order, the same one which, in the years 1970, imposed on all Algerian women and all Algerians to close it off and run straight, “criticizes journalist Akram Belkaïd in his column for Le Quotidien d'Oran, independent French-language newspaper.

“The“ Hirak ”[mouvement de contestation] won the first leg. The government is winning the return match and its “real” goal is to prevent a support match, in other words a resurgence of demonstrations when the epidemic is brought under control, ”says M. Belkaïd.

“Let them all clear! “

“The pandemic is bread blessed for the government in power, which has an insolent chance. The period of confinement lends itself to police and judicial harassment, “said Karima Direche, historian specialist in the Maghreb.

“This explains the dozens of arrests of known and unknown people in all the cities of Algeria,” she notes. “The detentions and the judgments prove once again that the judiciary is totally dependent on the executive. “

Despite the epidemic, several hundred people marched Sunday near Tizi-Ouzou, in Kabylia, to denounce the summoning by the police of five young local anti-regime activists, according to social networks.

For 56 weeks, conspiring corruption, nepotism and “the military state”, the “Hirak” demanded a change from ” system ”in place since independence in 1962. In vain, even if he obtained the head of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years of reign.

“Let them all clear! Was a key slogan for this unprecedented, peaceful, plural uprising without leadership.

But for President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected in December 2019 with 60% of abstention, “true democracy can only be built within the framework of a strong state with its justice and national cohesion”.

M. Tebboune justifies by “national sovereignty” the censorship measures against online sites accused of being in the pay of “foreign organizations”.

Facing him and the army, “who remains more than ever present”, according to Mr. me Direche , the political opposition is weakened and divided.

“We find ourselves in a situation where the regime is gaining ground, consolidated by the reprieve from the pandemic, the absence of an alternative vision to its own, reassuring and decipherable”, wrote recently the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud in an interview with the Geneva daily Le Temps.

“There is not a regime, but several, in internal competition obviously, tempted some by real reforms, others by even stricter controls”, he underlined.

“Ideas don't die”

Power is however weakened not only by the “Hirak” and the health emergency, but also by the fall in the price of hydrocarbons, which threatens a serious economic crisis in Algeria, hyper dependent on the oil rent .

“The government is more concerned with the revival of economic, social and educational activities than with the resumption of” Hirak “”, argues Mansour Kedidir, researcher at the Center for Research in Social and Cultural Anthropology (CRASC) of Oran.

“The new president intends to implement the promised reforms, from the draft new constitution to the opening of other institutional projects. He plans to breathe new life into the economy and establish his credit in society. The task is difficult, “he admits.

The very fact that Mr. Tebboune wants to have the “Hirak” inscribed in the marble of the Constitution, on the occasion of a revision, means that he is about to sign the obituary , according to observers.

“Taking advantage of the health emergency and confinement, there is indeed a desire to atomize the” Hirak “. But the regime cannot see that the “Hirak” is above all ideas and ideas do not die ”, assures Asma Mechakra, researcher in biomedicine, who campaigns for the release of Karim Tabbou, emblematic figure of the challenge in prison.

“My generation may not see the change, but we will have left the ground for the flourishing of a new Algeria. “