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Different kinds of protests in Algeria

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Over the years, Algeria has witnessed many protests. The number of protests in 2017 was nearly 12,000, which continued through 2018. However, there is consensus that the current wave of protests, which started on 22 February, is different in nature, effectiveness, goals and reach.

Although previous demand-based protests of labour and sectorial groups were well-defined by clear social and economic dimensions, they have, nevertheless, formed the basis for the current wave of protests, which tie economic and social dimensions to the structural form of the state and its political decisions.

Factor of stability

The announcement by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on 10 February that he will run for a new term in the next elections of 18 April did not come as a surprise to his supporters and close circle. A campaign to support his candidacy for a new term had been launched months earlier by the three parties that make up the Algerian presidential coalition, despite growing concerns over his health after a stroke he had in 2013 greatly reduced his appearance to the public. The shocking surprise, however, was in the level of the popular opposition and the protest movement, as well as the widespread participation of the traditional opposition in rejection of Bouteflika’s candidacy and expressions of concern over the insistence on a fifth term, which poses an existential threat to the Algerian state.

One of the paradoxes of the Algerian case is that the consensual man who brought civil peace and stability to the country has now become controversial and constitutes an “existential threat to the Algerian state,” according to the opposition.

It is important to understand the circumstances under which Bouteflika came to power in the first place, and how his decades-long presidency has since set the parameters of Algerian politics. According to Zine El Abidine Ghabouli, since taking office in 1999 amid severe political unrest and civil war, Abdelaziz Bouteflika has long been considered the man of political consensus. During his first term, he managed to maintain a balance between the various influential people in Algeria (the army, the presidency, the Islamists and the business community). This ability has also enabled him to gain relatively broad support from Algerian society, particularly that the civil war which claimed some 200,000 lives, ended under his rule. But attempting to insist on Bouteflika’s fifth mandate shows that the current Algerian political regime is unable to find an alternative, or even to renew its elite class. The fact that the presidential alliance has been seeking a fifth term for several months proves that Bouteflika is the only viable option for the regime in order to preserve the remaining........

© Middle East Monitor