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Algiers: Three years after the power-shattering Hirak pro-democracy demonstrations, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has launched an initiative to break political immobility, which analysts and politicians say will depend on concrete gestures in the face of a skeptical opposition.

Elected in December 2019 to succeed Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was driven out by an unprecedented popular uprising, Mr Tebboune has since sought to overcome suspicions from Hirak and opposition activists who see the 76-year-old president as a mere product of the state apparatus do not embody the renewal expected of young people.

The Hirak, launched in February 2019 to call for a radical change in the existing system, has largely faded since then, but more than 250 people are still linked, according to the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD). imprisoned with this movement .or for claims relating to individual liberties.

With celebrations approaching on July 5 to mark the 60th anniversary of Algeria’s independence after 132 years of French colonization, power saw an opportune moment to try to defuse tensions.

In early May, for example, the official APS agency published an op-ed describing Mr. Tebboune as a “unifying president” who “uses all his intelligence to bring together people and parties who have failed to unite in the past”.

Algeria “needs all its children to celebrate together the 60th anniversary of independence,” the agency added, without specifically mentioning the Hirak fighters.

According to her, Mr Tebboune’s “new Algeria” is “reaching out to turn a new page” for “his children”.

“Political slump”

In the days that followed, Mr Tebboune met separately with the leaders of several political groups, including the opposition Movement of the Society for Peace (MSP, Islamists) party.

He first mentioned his initiative publicly in mid-May at a meeting with representatives of the Algerian diaspora on the sidelines of a visit to Turkey and said it was “necessary for creating an internally united front”.

He also announced the “holding of an inclusive meeting of political parties in the coming weeks” without specifying the purpose.

The initiative garnered public support from the influential Algerian army, a pillar of power whose chief of staff, Saïd Chanegriha, said it was “in perfect alignment with the legitimate aspirations of our youth for a better future”.

“Faced with mounting political constraints, the government has no choice but to open up under a new consensual political process to achieve the stability it has sought since Hirak,” political analyst Toufik Bougaada told AFP.

“Power has failed to generate political momentum around its new Algeria project. Political stagnation, as well as harsh criticism of the human rights situation, have left power without real political or public support,” adds the professor of international relations at the University of Algiers 3.

“calming measures”

MSP leader Abderrazak Makri, after his meeting with Tebboune, expressed hope that Algerians will “achieve a common vision that guarantees freedoms and an effective political transition.”

But Mohcine Belabbas, president of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), an opposition party that boycotted the last general election in 2021, questioned the intentions of power.

“If there had been a real will, the power (..) would have released all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and put an end to the arbitrary persecution of militants and political activists,” Mr Belabbas wrote on Facebook.

Professor of Law and Political Sciences at the University of Algiers, Ismail Maaraf, agrees. According to him, a “serious political dialogue” requires “appeasement measures, taking into account the release of political prisoners and the opening of the political and media field”.

Karim Tabbou, character of Hirak and leader of a small opposition party, said that “the authorities are in no way concerned about the issue of Hirak detainees and reminded that “the head of state can take measures for their release at any time”.

“The only problem of power remains the Hirak. He’s working his way through all sorts of maneuvers to make his return impossible,” he added on Facebook.

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