* Government gives permission for 10 parties to register
* Algeria under pressure to allow more democracy
* Country so far largely untouched by "Arab Spring"
By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS, Jan 24 Algeria's government on
Tuesday authorised the creation of the first new political
parties in more than a decade, four months before a
parliamentary election when the authorities will be under
pressure to allow more democracy.
Opponents of the Algerian government though say it is only
paying lip service to greater freedoms, under pressure from the
"Arab Spring" upheavals elsewhere in the region, while retaining
tight control on the political scene.
Algeria is the only country in North Africa largely
untouched by the "Arab Spring" but analysts say it has many of
the conditions, including massive youth unemployment and a lack
of democratic accountability, that set off last year's
The Interior Ministry announced it had given the green light
for 10 organisations to officially register as parties, a
requirement before they can run in elections.
"We have acted in such a way that a maximum number of
parties could get the go ahead," Interior Minister Daho Ould
Kablia was quoted as saying by the state-run APS news agency.
This is the first time since President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
took office in 1999 that new parties have been given the
go-ahead to register.
The parties given authorisation include several moderate
Islamist groups - echoing a trend in the Middle East for
Islamists to enjoy growing influence since the Arab Spring.
Government critics say many of the new parties are close to
the authorities but one, the Islamist Front for Justice and
Development led by Abdallah Djaballah, is an uncompromising
opponent of the government.
At the moment, Algeria's parliament is controlled by an
alliance made up of the National Liberation Front, which has
dominated political life in Algeria since independence from
France, and the National Rally for Democracy, led by Prime
Minister Ahmed Ouyahia.
Bouteflika, who is 74, last year enacted limited reforms in
the wake of the revolts which toppled entrenched leaders in
Egypt as well as in Algeria's neighbours Tunisia and Libya.
He ordered the lifting of a 19-year-old state of emergency
and promised to end state monopoly of television and media.
The authorities also transferred the task of supervising
elections from the Interior Ministry to a commission of judges,
and invited the European Union to send election monitors.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this month commended
Algeria for what she said were "very significant reforms".
But opponents of the government say the ruling elite which
has run Algeria for decades, with support from the military, is
showing no signs it is prepared to relinquish power.
OPEC member Algeria is a top gas producer and it is a
crucial ally for Western governments in the fight against al
Qaeda in the region.
(Editing by Christian Lowe)