Amnesty International called out France on Thursday for proposed state of emergency provisions the human rights organization dubbed “disproportionate.” At the same time, similarly controversial measures were gathering steam in Algeria to (relatively) muted attention. On Sunday, Algerian lawmakers will vote on a disputed constitutional amendment, notably Article 51, which would prevent Algerians of dual nationalities from holding high public office. (Article 73 dictates that Algeria’s head of state be born with one nationality – Algerian; it further notes that the president’s spouse must also be Algerian by birth.)
The amendment, spearheaded by Ahmed Ouyahia, President Bouteflika’s cabinet chief, has provoked some outcry, mostly from the Algerian community living abroad. Unsurprisingly, many media outlets in France, home to millions of Algerians, have been lambasting the reform. (This as the debate over France’s so-called “loss of nationality” law rages on; the French government is pushing for a constitutional reform that would see citizens with dual nationalities stripped of their French citizenship if they are convicted of terrorism.)
Algiers’ response to the criticism, both at home and abroad? A nonchalant shrug, it would appear. The official line holds that Article 51 is merely a response to the “rapid evolution of our society.” And supporters of the constitutional reform are emphasizing the positives within the bill, i.e., measures to ensure gender equality in the workforce and the designation of Tamazight (a Berber dialect) as an official language.
But to many, it looks like a step backwards and a surefire way to further cement Algeria’s old political guard and create divisions between Algerians.
(Note that while the reforms proposed in France are linked to the terrorist acts in Paris in November 2015, detractors have argued that they will similarly exacerbate hostilities towards citizens with dual nationalities, notably members of the country’s large Franco-Algerian population.)
That said, the noise will likely dissipate by Sunday. With the president’s backing and broad support in Parliament, and despite opposition from local media and rights groups, there’s little chance the reform won’t go through. And as notes Algerian daily L’Expression, most Algerians appear, well, indifferent to the reform, though resigned may be the more accurate term.
However, little has been officially said about the measure’s impact on a major source of national pride – the country’s visibly multi-national soccer team, most of whose players don’t live in Algeria. (According to Le Monde, it was Algeria who pushed FIFA to change its laws on dual national players in 2009 to pave the way for more Franco-Algerians on the national team…) Though, the Algerian government has reportedly insinuated that these local heroes – remember soccer is akin to a religion in Algeria – won’t be affected. As long as they don’t try to enter politics, that is.