Algeria's moderate Islamist party exits government

Monday 2 Jan 2012

Islamist Movement for a Peaceful Society withdraws from the presidential alliance ahead of April legislative elections

Abou Djara Soltani
Movement for a Peaceful Society leader Abou Djara Soltani , Algeria (Photo:AFP)

A moderate Islamist party pulled out of Algeria's governing coalition on Sunday, saying that 2012 is the year of competition — not alliances.

The announcement by the Movement for a Peaceful Society, or MSP, to leave the so-called presidential alliance comes ahead of April legislative elections.

The MSP's decision to enter the opposition should allow it to try to capitalize on the wave of Islamist victories in other Arab countries, although it is unclear how well the party can prosper after years inside the power structure.

The party had already reached out to Algeria's Islamist ranks ahead of the elections, and differences with its partners, the powerful National Liberation Front and the National Democratic Rally, were well known.

The decision to leave the governing coalition, which it joined in 2004, was announced at the end of a gathering of the party's Consultative Council focused on the upcoming elections and the party's role in the alliance behind President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

MSP leader Abou Djara Soltani put the accent on disagreement over how to implement an array of reforms announced April 15 by Bouteflika to placate the restless Algerian population as uprisings now known as the Arab Spring have toppled leaders of other Arab nations.

He accused coalition partners of "emptying the political reforms of their substance in the name of partisan interests" rather than ensuring reforms worked in the interest of the people.

The year 2012, Soltani said, will be "the year of political competition ... and not that of the alliance," synonymous with "political mediocrity which serves neither the country nor its citizens."

Alliance partners, the powerful FLN and RCD, have rejected the MSP's criticism that the planned reforms are tactical.

The MSP has four ministers in minor posts.

The MSP founder, Mahfoud Nahnah, who died in 2003, changed the party's name from Hamas — not linked to the Palestinian movement — in 1999 to conform with a law banning references to Islam in party names.

That law grew out of Algeria's effort to block the return of Islamic fundamentalism to the political scene after a now-banned Islamic party nearly won the nation's first multiparty elections in 1991 — aborted by the army to stop a likely victory. The move triggered an insurgency that left an estimated 200,000 Algerians dead.

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