Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika recently announced that he would be running for a fifth term. He did not make the announcement personally. In fact, he has not spoken a word in public for the last five years.
He spends most of his time in Switzerland, being treated for an unknown illness. His only public appearances are in a wheelchair. At these times, with his vacant eyes, he looks more dead than alive.
Algeria has lost half of its oil revenue while young people have no jobs and no prospects for a better future. Bouteflika’s corrupt administration has recently erected a magnificent new mosque in Algiers. This may have been the last straw.
Street protests exploded and overflowed. The police were not sure whether they wanted to fight the protestors or join them. Journalists were arrested. A female broadcaster was interrupted and contradicted while she was on the air. The protests have since spread to Tunis and to Marseilles which have large Algerian populations.
Bouteflika then chose to leave (or maybe it was chosen for him.) An interim government is in place until elections can be held. But things are breaking down. Everyone and everything in Bouteflika’s government is suspect. The people are tired of the system of cronyism and are demanding a clean slate, real elections and the rule of law. Most recently, the demand is that new elections should not be held until present governmental system is eradicated. They have no faith in interim President Abdelkader Bensaleh.
What’s next? There seems to be no promising alternative. The opposition is weak and divided. And the money to implement solutions is simply not there. Many are afraid that Algeria could once again descend into violence as it did in the 1990’s when the country went through a terrible civil war. 200,000 people died and election results were overturned.
The omnipresent Army is the sole source of power and will oversee the new elections if they are held. But the Army has its vested interests to protect and will probably continue to run the country no matter what the elections may bring
Editor’s note: Here is a video showing the mosque which is now nearing completion. It is a very remarkable building and worth enjoying.