8 March 2019

Algeria: Protests in Algeria, Start of Something Bigger?

Photo: allafrica.com
This is just the latest march by Algerians against the current regime, and protesters say that Bouteflika (bottom-right) needs to stand down and not run in the upcoming 18 April elections.

An ailing 82-year-old refusing to relinquish the presidency, resentment against a ruling civilian and military cabal, and an economy in crisis have sparked mass protests across Algeria in recent weeks.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika praised the peaceful nature of the ongoing demonstrations and "maturity of our citizens, notably youth" in a message to mark International Women's Day on Friday.

Bouteflika also warned Algerians over "possible infiltration of misleading parties" who may seek to "provoke chaos" in a statement published by the Algeria Press Service.

Why is everyone sick of Bouteflika?

Protesters have been hitting the streets in the capital, Algiers, and other cities across the North African country for weeks, demanding Bouteflika withdraw from contending forthcoming elections. The announcement on Sunday that the octogenarian will seek a fifth term in office has sparked fury among Algerians.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seen on a wheelchair as he casts his vote at a polling station in Algiers on May 4, 2017 during parliamentary elections. Algerians voted for a new parliament amid soaring unemployment and a deep financial crisis caused by a collapse in oil revenues. (Photo by Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

During his first two terms in office, Bouteflika, who first came to power in 1999, won praise for steering his country back to stability following "the black decade" of the 1990s when a bloody civil war left more than 150,000 dead.

Bouteflika won a third term in 2009 -- despite ongoing health problems -- in a landslide victory which opposition candidates labeled a "charade." Algerian lawmakers, loyal to the president, paved the way for Bouteflika to run again by changing the country's constitution which previously capped presidential limits at two terms.

Even though he suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since, he won a fourth term in 2014. However, as another election looms, popular disillusionment has spiraled over the undemocratic rule of le pouvoir, or the power, as the establishment clique propping up Bouteflika is known.

While there were some smaller protests against his election in 2014, enough is finally enough for Algerians, according to Dalia Ghanem, an Algerian resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center.

"He's been there for 20 years. He's been very sick since 2013. He hasn't been able to talk to his people for the last six years, let alone govern," Ghanem tells CNN. "(These protests) are about getting back their dignity."

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