The five candidates for the Algerian presidential election of December 12 participated, Friday, December 6 in the evening, in an unprecedented televised debate, a first for the country. They struggled to defend their programs, but simply responded with commonplaces and approached the protest movement. As they struggled, a crowd walked the streets of Algiers to protest against the power in place.
First interviewed by journalists on political issues, including the practices that led to an unprecedented crisis, the candidates were content to respond by commonplaces. The narrow format of the debate - each suitor, standing behind transparent desks, to answer in turn in two minutes chrono - did not favor productive exchanges.
All five have tried to proclaim themselves close to "Hirak", the protest movement that has shaken Algeria since February 22 and yet rejects massively the poll for which they are candidates. This movement also accuses them of being born or supported by power.
The five contenders (Ali Benflis, Abdelmajid Tebboune, Azzedine Mihoubi, Abdelaziz Belaid and Abdelkader Bengrina) used their two strictly timed minutes to reply to 13 questions relating in particular to the political, economic and social situation of the country.
They were to finish at the end of the evening with a plea of three minutes on the aspirations of the Algerian people.
Four journalists are in charge of asking the questions: two of the television (one for public television, the other for private channels) and two for the press, a man and a woman of private newspapers.
Organized by the Independent National Electoral Authority (ANIE), this first televised presidential debate in the history of Algeria is broadcast live by public and private television channels as well as national radio.
No "transparency or independence vis-à-vis the State"
According to the Tunis-based NGO Munathara, which organizes debates in the Arab world, it "does not meet international standards of transparency and independence vis-à-vis the state."
It takes place 48 hours before the end of an election campaign marked by protest demonstrations of "Hirak". Thus, the candidates had to hold their electoral meetings under strong police protection.
Opponents of the vote blame the candidates for having been part of the entourage of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika at one time or another, forced to resign on April 2 after 20 years of presidency.
For the protesters, the five presidential candidates are all "children of the system".
On Friday, an immense crowd marched again in Algiers against the power, rejecting massively this poll which the regime persists to want to organize.
No public poll is available to assess the possible participation in the ballot, but abstention, long seen as the only way to challenge a fixed regime, was already strong in previous elections.