Anti-government protests in Algeria gain more momentum

Hundreds of thousands have joined the protests and taken to the streets in Algeria to force the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Yesterday was the sixth successive Friday of mass anti-government protests in Algeria and according to estimates, the crowds in the capital Algiers exceeded a million.

Army general, Lt Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah had earlier this week called for the position of president to be made vacant, a move opposition parties in the country said would not guarantee free elections.

The police in Algiers fired tear gas to disperse the crowds as they were trying to reach the presidency. This showed that the protesters were not moved by Lt Gen Gaed Salah’s demand to declare that Mr. Bouteflika is unfit for presidency just a few days back.

Genesis and cause of protests

The protests for the removal of president Bouteflika began in February this year following the president’s move to announce that he would stand for another term. Meanwhile, the president had been rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Following the increased pressure from protesters, the president withdrew his bid to stand for a fifth term in the upcoming elections. However, the president’s submission did not satisfy protesters who viewed his decision as a cynical move to elongate his twenty-year rule.

Now the protesters are demanding for the departure of the president and his entire cabinet together with those in his circle who were in line to succeed him as one of the protesters was heard saying “We only have one word to say today, all the gang must go immediately, game over”.

Rejected solution?

Lt Gen Gaed Salah, who is also deputy defense minister had earlier this week called for the use of Article 102 that empowers the Constitutional Council to declare the position of president vacant if he is deemed unfit to rule. This amendment was backed by the ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN).

If implemented, the constitution of Algeria allows the head of the Senate, currently Mr. Abdelkhader Bansallah to become the acting head of state until elections are held to fill the vacancy of the president.

However, despite all this intervention to ease the tension in the country, protesters and opposition parties have continued their work on the streets.

Most of the protesters are youth with no attachment to any political party and their main objective now is to force the departure of president Bouteflika and all his allies to create a vacancy for a brand new government.

Tough fix?

It is quite challenging to forge a way out since protesters seem to be so independent with not even opposition political party able to influence them. There is no any direct leader or spokesperson that can be contacted by the authorities to discuss the way forward.

The move by Lt Gen Gaid Salah to abandon Mr. Bouteflika was aimed at ending the crisis but it may be futile if they don’t get an influential party representing the protesters to discuss the procedure with.

The protesters’ demand for a departure of everybody who has been associated with the regime means that their expectations are very high yet they do not offer any alternative for the moment.

Posted in Blog.