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The Algerian regime is ‘politically dead’ so there is cause for optimism

27 6 25
14.03.2019

Algeria has been experiencing continuous popular protests against a possible fifth term in office for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 22 February. On Monday, he finally renounced the idea of running at the next election, but he also postponed sine die the presidential election scheduled for 18 April. He is remaining as President and has, thus, extended his mandate. The 82-year-old has been in power since 1999 and has just appointed a new Prime Minister after the resignation of Ahmed Ouyahia.

According to leading economist Omar Benderra, Bouteflika’s statement is a crude manoeuvre which sends a clear message that the political transition to democracy can only instigated by the regime. “It will be managed, supervised and directed by the regime,” he explained. “The president is also saying that the constitution is, in effect, no longer in place, because the planned election next month has been cancelled unilaterally.” What’s more, Bouteflika — “Who is unable to make his own decisions” — has basically extended his own term of office beyond the legal mandate. “This is an unconstitutional reformulation of his previous offer of 3 March, in which he announced that he would stand for a fifth term of office, but which he would shorten.” This is the time that he has said he needs to implement reforms which he has had 20 years to do.

Algerians protest president’s bid for 5th term – Cartoon [Mohammad Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

As the former President of the Public Bank, Benderra was in charge of the renegotiation of Algeria’s external debt during the democratic window under the Mouloud Hamrouche government (1989-1991). He is now an independent consultant and a member of Algeria-Watch human rights association. As such, he knows the Algerian system well, even though it remains a mystery to many.

READ: Algeria leaders ready to discuss system based on ‘will of the people’

The decision to postpone the election is “a violation of the constitution and a coup de force,” he insists. On the streets of Algeria and on social media, people have denounced this “ruse” to extend the president’s fourth term. Protesters promise to continue to hold demonstrations in the midst of a five-day general strike which began last Sunday.

Bouteflika also announced that a national conference will be held to bring together representatives of the protesters as well as veterans of the war of independence. Diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, the former UN mediator for Lebanon and Iraq, could lead the moves to democratise the political system.

In appointing Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and his deputy, Ramtane Lamamra, the regime is bringing in its safest pairs of hands. “Bedoui,” noted Benderra, “is a trained bureaucrat loyal to a system that promotes soulless and unconscious leadership.” The new Prime Minister was the Minister of the Interior during the extremely violent repression of doctors on strike last year. “This is a man who........

© Middle East Monitor