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Protests Against Algeria’s Bouteflika

Protests in Algeria and in the Diaspora Prove Successful

On February 9, 2019, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he was running for a fifth term. As a result, weeks of protests erupted in Algeria and in the diaspora.

The Algerian Consulate in Montreal, located at the corner of Saint Urbain and Sherbrooke, has been the site of recurring protests since the announcement of Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term. An estimated 1,000 protestors participated in the most recent demonstration on March 10.

Following these demonstrations, on March 11, Bouteflika rescinded his bid for the presidency in the country’s upcoming elections set for April. Bouteflika made the announcement via a letter that describes the need for “deep reforms in the political, institutional, economic, and social fields;” this includes a postponement of the April presidential elections until after reforms are implemented.

Bouteflika, 82, has been in power for 20 years. When he came to power in 1999, he was credited with ending the country’s civil war and praised for maintaining social stability throughout the first ten years of his rule, largely with the good fortune of high oil prices.

As oil prices fell, so did the country’s unemployment rate. In 2008, he amended the country’s constitution to remove the two term limit on presidential rule, enabling him to serve a third and fourth term.

After suffering a stroke in 2013, Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public. As a result, many Algerians deem him unfit to govern. There is great concern that Bouteflika is used as by the military, business elites, and politicians as a way to rule. Allegedly, Bouteflika’s brother, Saïd Bouteflika, is acting as de facto president in his place.

Since Bouteflika announced his planned reforms, there have been concerns over internal power dynamics. The announcement mentions his plan to appoint a new government as well as a “national conference.”

This conference will be responsible for drafting a new constitution as well as setting the date of the next presidential election.

Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui has become Prime Minister following the resignation of Ahmed Ouyahia. The new Prime Minister has announced plans to create a technocratic interim government with a cabinet representative of the young people leading the recent protests.

Some are concerned Bouteflika will remain in power until this election, thereby extending his final term. Others are looking to those in Bouteflika’s inner-circle, waiting to see if someone will emerge as his successor. Ultimately, it seems that the protests have been effective, but what will happen in the long-term remains unclear.