Everyone seems to be surprised that the FLN, this old and discredited party, keeps on winning and keeps on being the first and most important party in Algeria. The media are bamboozled, the talking-heads are rolling their eyes, and raising their hands in total disbelief, and the inept and non-existent political opposition is accusing the FLN of electoral fraud, belligerent campaigning, and unbecoming behavior. Well, let me tell you right now: all of these is total bull-crap.
The FLN won and its victory is pretty much legitimate because the FLN is an institution in the classic sense. And as such, it is sticky. So, a more appropriate title would’ve been: “It’s the institution, stupid!”
And everyone who doesn’t acknowledge and/or understand this victory has no understanding of what a political party is, and what it does, and for what purpose it exists. If you are among the idiots who believe this nonsense, like our newspapers and media personalities, I urge you to go read some books and educate yourself on the topic.
The question is why the FLN won? What’s it about this party that allows it to win? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is because the FLN is a real party. It has a brand name. It has owned issues for as long as Algeria has been independent. It has an organizational structure and framework that allows it to exist and be present in every wilaya, city, municipality, county, and village in the country. It has a base of faithful, although this base is not what it used to be. It has a hierarchy that pretty much dictates and delineates the paths toward career advancement, although we can’t discount the important role of corruption and nepotism here. Briefly stated, the FLN looks like a party, functions like a party, behaves likes a party, walks like a party, and talks like a party. Hence, it is a party. In a country where most political parties are paper-tigers, being a real party is a big plus.
Yes, the FLN is an old discredited party. Yes, the FLN is chuck full of corruption and nepotism. Yes, the FLN is the party of the past, an archaic and antiquated party. Yes, the FLN hasn’t had one single new and innovative idea since November 1, 1954. Yes, the FLN is a broken political clock that gets the time right twice a day. Nevertheless, the FLN is a party in the electorate; it is a party as an organization; and it is a party in government. And as such, it is the only political party in Algeria right now that has these features. The rest of the parties of the opposition or in whatever place they want to be have never bothered to build their parties nationally and provide them with serious structures and organization. Granted, the FLN party-identification numbers are not that great, but they exist; they are not fictional, and that’s what allows this party to win. The rest of the opposition exists on paper, and nowhere else.
Corruption, ineptitude, and archaism do not cause huge and consecutive electoral defeats and major realignments of the electorate. It is only the loss of the brand of a given party, and the loss of its institutional structure, which is geared for victory, that causes the collapse of a political party. The last two features are very strong within the FLN, and that’s why the FLN wins.