Viewing cable 08ALGIERS1296
Title: ALGERIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS ON BOUTEFLIKA AND

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
08ALGIERS12962008-12-15 07:56:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Algiers
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R 150756Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6737
INFO RUEHBP/AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 0789
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1131
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 9125
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 6584
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2956
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 2611
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 7470
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0528
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ALGIERS 001296 
 
CODEL 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM OREP PBTS MO AG
SUBJECT: ALGERIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS ON BOUTEFLIKA AND 
WESTERN SAHARA 
 
REF: A. ALGIERS 1288 
     ¶B. ALGIERS 1280 
 
Classified By: Ambassador David D. Pearce for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY:  Parliamentarians told Codel Hastings on 
December 2 that they believed the international community 
must play a greater role in resolving the Western Sahara 
question and that a third term for President Bouteflika is 
necessary for the well-being of Algeria.  The Minister of 
Parliamentary Affairs also explained how his ministry 
functions and extolled the virtues of Algeria's multiparty 
system (an explanation that actually served to highlight the 
relative weakness of the legislative branch in Algeria, even 
as the former prime minister told the Ambassador that 
legislative reform aimed at strengthening the parliament are 
on the horizon, ref A).  Rep. Hastings engaged the Algerians 
on the issue of international election observers (ref B), and 
pressed them to find a way to move forward on the question of 
Western Sahara.  He also invited parliamentarians to future 
meetings of the OSCE, and said that he would urge Senator 
Hillary Clinton and Governor Bill Richardson, assuming they 
are each confirmed for cabinet positions, to the region to 
help boost relations in the Maghreb.  END SUMMARY. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
DEAR LEADER, OR WHY ALGERIA STILL NEEDS BOUTEFLIKA 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
¶2. (C) With reverence reminiscent of official statements from 
North Korea, parliamentary leaders who met with Congressman 
Alcee Hastings on December 2 extolled the virtues of their 
president, and reiterated why the leading parties had 
recently met to ask Bouteflika to run for a third term. 
Abdelaziz Ziari, president of the Popular National Assembly 
(APN) and a ruling FLN party loyalist, noted that a majority 
of parliament, including among opposition parties, voted in 
favor of the constitutional change that will allow Bouteflika 
to stand for a third term.  Ziari said that Bouteflika had 
the experience, skills and trust of the people that were 
needed to maintain stability in Algeria.  "The people wanted 
this," he said, quickly adding, "perhaps not all of the young 
people, but everyone knows it is necessary." 
 
¶3. (C) Abderezak Bouhara, vice president of the Council of 
the Nation (also called the Senate, the upper house of 
parliament) and an FLN elder statesman, cast Bouteflika in an 
odd, patriotic-reformer light.  Bouhara began by saying the 
constitutional amendments were no surprise; they had been 
discussed since Bouteflika first took office.  He said recent 
"important events" have made the changes urgently necessary, 
and tried to portray them as "a step toward reform."  But, he 
added, change in Algeria "must be done quietly."  Bouhara 
praised Bouteflika's "rich experience developed since the 
national revolution," and cajoled his colleagues in the room 
to agree that the president was a reformer who liked to 
"break taboos."  Bouhara proffered that the ruling coalition 
of parties "insist that he runs, and we hope from the bottom 
of our hearts that he does." 
 
------------------------------------- 
AN ODD LESSON IN MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY 
------------------------------------- 
 
¶4. (C) Rep. Hastings also met Minister of Parliamentary 
Relations Mahmoud Khedri, who explained his function as 
"defending the interests of parliament before the Council of 
Ministers, and defending the interests of government before 
the parliament."  But he highlighted that, in fact, he is a 
member of the government and has sole responsibility for 
coordinating relations between the government and the 
parliament.  Khedri began the meeting on the defensive, 
saying "no country has paid the price for democracy as has 
Algeria."  He claimed that the international community 
abandoned Algeria during its struggle against terrorists in 
the 1990s, and that countries like the United States actually 
harbored Algerian terrorists under the guise of human rights 
and asylum.  He said that it was not until after September 11 
that the world came to appreciate Algeria's struggle against 
terror. 
 
¶5. (C) Khedri explained how multiparty democracy works in 
 
ALGIERS 00001296  002 OF 003 
 
 
Algeria, stating that there were 27 recognized political 
parties and 85,000 approved associations.  He asserted that 
the legislative branch controlled the work of the executive 
and provided a check on executive power.  But he added that 
the parliament's power to question the executive branch was 
executed literally by submitting a list of questions.  Khedri 
repeatedly skirted Rep. Hastings' question as to whether 
parliamentarians hired staff to carry out legislative work. 
Eventually he admitted that MPs did not have staff, but all 
of parliament had access to a team of "legislative 
technicians."  Khedri also noted, however, that he managed a 
staff of 130. 
 
¶6. (C) Khedri discussed at length how it was impossible for 
small Algerian parties to claim fraud or injustice in the 
political system when there were 22 parties and one 
independent represented in the upper house alone.  In 
addition to denying the effectiveness of election monitors 
(ref B), he also challenged complaints by small parties in 
recent elections that they had not had access to full 
candidate lists.  Khedri claimed that under the 2004 election 
law, personal information provided to election authorities is 
considered protected for privacy and security reasons. 
Therefore, he said, it was impossible for authorities to 
release all of the election lists, because those lists 
include personal data such as addresses and family 
information.  He concluded by pointing out to Rep. Hastings, 
a former judge like Khedri, that the 2004 election law also 
placed provincial oversight in the hands of judges rather 
than political committees.  This eliminated the chance of 
fraud, he told the Congressman, "because as you and I both 
know, there is no place for fraud in the judiciary." 
 
------------------------------------ 
WESTERN SAHARA: WE CAN'T DO IT ALONE 
------------------------------------ 
 
¶7. (C) Representatives of both houses of parliament pressed 
Rep. Hastings on the issue of the Western Sahara.  APN 
President Ziari said that the dispute was not between Algeria 
and Morocco.  Algeria did not care about the territory 
itself, he was quick to point out, "we leave that in the 
capable hands of the international community."  Rather, Ziari 
said, it was an issue of decolonization and Algeria would 
welcome whatever decision was reached, even assimilation into 
Morocco, as long as it was a decision made by the Sahrawi 
people.  Ziari also said that the issue retarded economic 
integration and political cooperation in the Maghreb, and 
urged that the international community do more to try to 
resolve the issue.  Rep. Hastings pushed the onus back on the 
Algerians, saying that when he was a judge he would 
frequently leave two parties with seemingly insurmountable 
claims against each other in a room alone over lunch to work 
out a compromise on their own, which was often successful. 
He warned, however, that if neither Morocco nor Algeria 
appeared willing to work toward a true compromise, the 
international community would not waste time engaging further 
in an already decades-old stalemate. 
 
¶8. (C) Ziari pointed out that Algerian and Moroccan 
parliamentarians work together on the Maghreb Parliamentary 
Assembly, but lamented that his Moroccan counterparts only 
"express the views of the King."  He noted that there were 
many cultural and historic commonalities between the 
countries that should be expanded upon.  The Senate's Bouhara 
also noted collaborative efforts between the countries' 
parliaments, and opined that "secondary issues, like the 
Western Sahara, can be overcome."  When asked by Hastings, 
Ziari admitted that some European powers might actually 
interfere in the process of resolving the simmering disputes 
between Algeria and Morocco, noting specifically, "France 
gets in the way sometimes." 
 
------------- 
SEE YOU SOON? 
------------- 
 
¶9. (C) Rep. Hastings' final message to all he met was that he 
hoped to be able to return to the region both in his capacity 
as a representative of the OSCE parliamentary assembly and as 
an election observer (ref B), and he invited parliamentarians 
to future meetings regarding the OSCE process.  He also 
 
ALGIERS 00001296  003 OF 003 
 
 
stressed several times that he would ask Sen. Clinton and 
Gov. Richardson, assuming they were confirmed for cabinet 
positions, to visit the countries of the region soon to help 
spur regional dialogue and integration.  He thanked the 
Algerians for their efforts in resolving past conflicts, such 
as Ziari's role as the medical doctor who treated the 
American diplomats held hostage in Iran (Note: The reference, 
dropped in as an aside, was met by a sheepish but broad, 
appreciative smile by Ziari.  End note.).  He suggested that 
if the Algerians could find a way to work with Morocco to 
resolve outstanding issues in the region, he would like to 
see them act as mediators in disputes beyond the Maghreb, and 
even beyond the Middle East. 
 
---------------------------- 
COMMENT: IMBALANCE OF POWERS 
---------------------------- 
 
¶10. (C) One lesson that can be drawn from the meetings 
between Rep. Hastings and parliamentary officials is that the 
Algerian legislative branch is not a significant 
counterweight to the power of the executive.  The 
parliamentarians spent far more time discussing their 
president and his agenda than their own, and the Minister of 
Parliamentary Relations highlighted the weakness of the 
legislative branch by explaining what little power it has, 
and how tightly the ruling parties coordinate elections.  No 
one in the meetings really discussed constituent needs or 
desires, other than to insist that the people want Bouteflika 
to remain in office.  Thus, party representation, rather than 
popular representation, appears to be the focal point of 
democracy in the eyes of the ruling party representatives. 
In spite of that, former Prime Minister Belkhadem told the 
Ambassador on December 7 that reforms were expected in 2009 
that would strengthen the legislative branch, perhaps even 
giving it authority to author legislation.  It remains to be 
seen if the lack of connection with the people will undercut 
these leaders in future elections.  Underlying Khedri's own 
sarcasm was a sense of popular distrust and dissent when he 
defensively asked, "How can one say we have no freedom of the 
press, when all government officials -- from the highest to 
the lowest -- are regularly criticized in the papers?"  End 
Comment. 
 
¶11. (U) Rep. Hastings did not have the opportunity to clear 
this cable 
PEARCE