A string of white pearls around her neck, her hair tied in a bun, Louisa Hanoune, the only woman running for Algeria’s presidency, holds out her palms and declares: “I have clean hands”. The remark triggers an outburst of celebratory ululations and chants of “Louisa! Louisa!” among supporters of the 60-year-old leftist candidate, who is widely popular in Algeria, even among conservatives hostile to feminism. “I have clean hands,” she declares in a husky voice. “I have not held back, I have not sold off any businesses, I have not oppressed women.” She was speaking at a gathering in Kolea, about 40 km west of Algiers, where many women were among the roughly 300 supporters of the head of the Worker’s Party, who has been a member of parliament since 1997.
The April 17 election is “an unprecedented review of the history of independent Algeria,” argues the veteran leftist whose campaign calls for “Audacity” and “For a Second Republic”.
Explaining the slogans, Hanoune says it “is 52 years since independence, we must finish with the one-party system which is stripping the people of their sovereignty”.
Algeria needs the “audacity to tax the wealthy… to suspend the Association Agreement with the European Union and accession to the World Trade Organization, and to withdraw from the Arab Free Trade Area,” she adds.
Her targets are multinational companies and “foreign hands” which she accuses of slipping into civilian clothing and trying to drag the country into new violence.