Algeria’s electoral authorities have more or less confirmed that, like previous ones, the 12 June election was rigged, as they argued over a credible voter participation rate, which was progressively reduced from: 30.2% to 25.07%, to 23.03%, and to 19.01% if spoiled ballots are excluded. This comes close to the actual turnout of 11%-15%.
The surprise winners were the old Front de libération nationale (FLN) which gave its traditional alliance with the fellow regime supporting Rassemblement national démocratique (RND) a strong block in the new parliament.
The importance of these elections for the regime, however, is about enacting legislation, with a two-thirds majority, following the amendment of the Constitution which will enable Algerian troops to be deployment abroad for the first time and notably to Mali and the Sahel.
This decision will actually be made by the army’s conclave which is believed to number 8-20 of the most senior generals. The conclave will then inform the intelligence services — who are generally still referred to as the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS) — which, in turn, will tell the MPs how to vote.
It is generally believed that many generals are unhappy about sending troops to help the French in the Sahel. Army Chief of Staff General Saïd Chengriha has not made his views known publicly but he is thought to be in two minds on the issue. On the other hand, the influential retired generals Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediène and Khaled Nezzar, are both thought to be strongly opposed to the idea. They know that the army — despite its massive equipment expenditure — is not in great shape in terms of morale and hence fighting ability. They also know that the move, for reasons explained by Algeria Politics & Security – 15.06.21, will be extremely unpopular amongst most Algerians.
The opposition Rachad movement has been explaining to Algerians what is at stake in such an operation and this explains the virulence of the regime’s attacks on Rachad. However, Algeria has very little choice in the matter because of the pressure on the regime from both France and Washington.
The key man in this process is General Mohamed Kaïdi — head of the army’s Département emploi-préparation (DEP) — which effectively makes him the most powerful general after Chengriha. He was the top man under the late General Ahmed Gaïd Salah. He was to have replaced General Athmane Tartag as coordinator of the intelligence services, but the treacherous General Bouazza Ouassini, who is now serving a long prison sentence, stepped in and had Kaïdi dismissed (Algeria Politics & Security – 29.11.19). In April 2020, Kaïdi was reinstated and was appointed as head of the DEP (Algeria Politics & Security – 10.04.20), which raises the question as to why he was the only one of Gaïd Salah’s top generals kept in office.
The answer to this question is the pressure from Paris and Washington. Kaïdi is one of the few Algerian generals who speaks English and, more importantly, he has a critically important relationship with France. In January 2013, he was in the Elysée, as Algeria’s special military attaché or envoy, arranging overfly rights and other logistical arrangements on behalf of France which enabled the latter to launch its military intervention in Mali. Kaïdi is currently France’s top man in Algeria in preparing the possible deployment of Algerian troops. He is in a critical position because the DEP is responsible for the coordination of the army and for approving and overseeing all military operations.
Kaïdi is pushing for the Algerian troop deployment to Mali. According to our sources he has visited Bamako in the last 3-4 weeks, and has made up to four visits since France first conceived the project.
General Chengriha is thought to be suspicious of Kaïdi which is unsurprising because Kaïdi is thought to have his eye on his position. Indeed, if the deployment does go ahead, Kaïdi will become one of the key figures in the army, if not the top one. As one of our sources who is familiar with him remarked this week: ‘Kaïdi will either end up in jail or in power.’ He is the man to watched during the next few weeks.