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Algeria: Minister Apologizes For Telling Critics To Leave Country

Source : | 24 October 2020 |  World | 157 views

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Rabat – Algeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports Sid Ali Khaldi has publicly apologized for telling critics of the Algerian government’s proposed new constitution to leave the country. In a remarkable turn of events, the minister had to backtrack from his earlier remarks made in the run-up to the November 1 referendum on Algeria’s new constitution.Khaldi on Thursday told a crowd in Algiers that citizens who did not like the new constitution ”can just change their country.” The remarks, made during a meeting of representatives of local sports associations in Algiers, drew widespread coverage as an example of the blatant disdain the government has continuously shown towards critics. On Friday, Khaldi was forced to retract hiscommentsand issue a public apology. However, the apology itself barely managed to conceal his disdain for critics of the government. “My remarks were intended for those who are disturbed by the declaration,” Khaldi said. He stated that he considered opposition to the new constitution a “red line.”“To those who have misunderstood, I apologize for the words that I did not mean and which were taken out of context, ” he said in his retraction.His remarks sparked controversy after a school administrator in Oranpubliclyderided a female teacher who complained about “catastrophic” working conditions. She had complained about outdated equipment, highlighting that the school’s desks were from the “colonial era.” The teacher was publicly humiliated for her comments, sparking outrage on social media.In its campaign to get its new constitution approved, the government has repeatedly invoked the 2019 Hirak (movement) protests. The constitution was drafted and amended by the government without public consultation and without including civil society. Despite this secretive process, the government maintained that the document would produce a new, more vibrantly democratic Algeria. For many Algerians, Minister Khaldi’s remarks against both the new constitution’s critics and the public school teacher in Oran constitute further evidence seen by many as evidence that the government is being disingenuous. The new constitution has been presented as directly addressing Hirak concerns, yet critics of the government are routinely jailed.Morocco World News’analysisof the new constitution has concluded that the document does little but enshrine the powers of the status quo. It appears that on press freedom and freedom of speech the document allows more breathing space to the country’s current, prevailing political climate of repression and assault on individual freedoms and other rights. For critics, Khaldi’s remarks and his half-hearted apology are just another proof that the government has little patience for dissent and divergence of opinions on important public issues. They denounce the fact that the important balance between government and opposition, which is critical to democracy’s effective functioning, is still considered a prosecutable offense.With one week to go until the referendum to approve Algeria’s new constitution, the government is likely to accelerate its campaign to gather more support for a yes vote.

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