By Souad Sbai
Three uninterrupted weeks of protests by the Algerian people against Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime: the president, older than eighty years, weakened by an illness, who wanted to present his candidacy for his fifth consecutive term. But above all else, he is a president who has oppressed and starved people to death, leaving the Algerian people in the grip of the military and of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A protest that has gathered more than 2 million normal, moderate and respectable people. Men and women. Together not only against Bouteflika’s regime, but against the system of power that has supported him until now without fighting against extremism. Together in favor of a secular government that guarantees that they will not suffer the threats, violence, hunger and repression they have suffered for more than 20 years.
A peaceful protest, without the disorders that could be expected when millions of people take to the streets. So much that these days the images that stand out are those like that of Melissa Ziad, a dancer who parades in the middle of the demonstration moving with elegance on the tips; or the video, which went viral on social media, that shows a soldier joining the protesters; or the large number of images in which appear families and women without veils. Clear and unequivocal signals from those who ask, demand and deserve freedom. A protest that crossed the Algerian borders to reach France. It is no coincidence that the protesters accuse President Macron of an alleged plot with the Algerian authorities.
It is true that last March 11, Bouteflika, officially hospitalized in Geneva, released the news that he does not intend to run for a fifth term; however, something’s not right. It is especially inexplicable why he decided to postpone the elections without actually leaving the power or making a concrete commitment to do so at the end of this “legislature” (if it can be called legislature).
What Bouteflika has done is to promise an interim leadership structure governed by the current Algerian Interior Minister, Noureddine Bedoui, considered very close to the current president’s family. A useful mandate, in his opinion, to plan new presidential elections, to be held in the extension of the National Conference for a political and constitutional reform.
And this is where several doubts arise spontaneously. First of all: is the president serious or is it just a bluff to make time, verify people’s reaction and induce Algerian people let their guard down by placating the protests? Or, being forced to resign due to health problems, so serious that in recent days was spread a voice saying that he had died, will he be preparing the ground for an equally succession authoritarian?
We know that, in the meantime, Bedoui, as new Prime Minister, quickly announced the birth of a technical government composed of young people. Are we sure it’s just a transition phase? And how long should this transition last? In the “good” intentions stated by Bouteflika, he talks about for at least one year. The practical and immediate result is that the elections, which should be held in April, will move on to another year in which the power runs the risk of remaining in the hands of those who have managed it until now.
This is the reason why the Algerian people do not trust and continue to take to the streets to demonstrate tirelessly: they want to abolish Bouteflika, not the elections.