Bouteflika’s resignation: Winds of change or perpetuation of the establishment?

Despite the resignation of the longstanding leader of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, on 2 April, the protesters are not ready to go home. For more than 6 weeks, they have taken it to the streets in order to express their anger against the President, who had until then refused to end his power grab. But even his departure could not appease the protesters that will rally on 5 April, calling for an overhaul of the entire political structure, which they see as corrupt and out of touch.

In February, Bouteflika announced that he would run for a 5th mandate, which stirred unprecedented mass demonstrations in the North African country. His initial response to the riots — announcing anticipated elections in an unknown future following his re-election with a promise not to run — was rejected by the public. The protesters were even more enraged following his decision to postpone the presidential elections foreseen for 18 April, thus extending his mandate indefinitely. The 82-year-old, who was rarely seen in public after suffering a stroke in 2013, started to lose the support of his allies following this rather unconstitutional move.


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Démission du président #Bouteflika: quelle transition pour l’Algérie? L’#Algérie tourne une importante page de son histoire avec le départ du président Abdelaziz Bouteflika de son poste. Le chef de l’Etat a annoncé ce mardi sa démission avec effet immédiat. Au regard de la Constitution algérienne, c'est le président du Conseil de la nation, l’équivalent du Sénat, Abdelkader #Bensalah, qui est chargé d'assurer l'intérim. Selon la Constitution algérienne, le président du Conseil de la nation est chargé avec le gouvernement de gérer les affaires courantes du pays et d’organiser les élections sous trois mois. Le problème, c’est que l’actuel président, Abdelkader Bensalah, âgé de 77 ans, est une personnalité honnie, symbole de ce régime dont la rue ne veut plus. L’option d’une transition gérée par des figures du pouvoir est catégoriquement rejetée par la contestation populaire. Qui donc pourrait assurer cette transition ? Avant la démission d’Abdelaziz Bouteflika, des sources proches du pouvoir évoquaient la possibilité qu’une autre personnalité soit nommée à la tête du Conseil. Une transition hors du « système » Mais certaines voix de l'opposition rappellent leur exigence d'une transition qui ne soit pas menée par l'entourage de Bouteflika quitte à ne pas respecter la Constitution. C'est l'avis de Chafaa Bouaiche, député du parti d'opposition FFS : « On n’en peut pas avec le système actuel, avec la fraude électorale, avec tous les trafics, avec les verrouillages des champs d’expression et espaces d’expression, on ne peut pas organiser une élection présidentielle dans trois mois. Si on organise une élection présidentielle dans trois mois, on va arriver au même résultat qui a fait que Bouteflika en 1999 a été imposé à l’armée. Il faut qu’il y ait un dialogue. Les Algériens revendiquent une période de transition qui soit gérée par des personnalités, des partis politiques autonomes, des personnalités de la société civile et des gens choisis par le peuple algérien et non pas imposés comme d’habitude par le pouvoir. » Toute l’actualité sur 225 AVORIO MAG

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One of his most loyal collaborators Deputy Defence Minister and Chief of Army Gaid Salah convened a meeting with top military officials and called for the removal of the head of state on constitutional grounds. While this was welcomed by many, the Algerian opposition parties strongly criticised this “coup d’État”, deeming it as an attempt to relaunch the regime.

In the meantime, the government was reshuffled by the new Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, previously Minister of Interior, who was nominated by Bouteflika. Faithful to his ousted mentor and the latter’s brother Said, who is known as the regent of the country, Bedoui will conduct the country’s state affairs as the government cannot be changed during the 90-day transition period leading to elections.

Bedoui assumes the leadership of the executive branch, which was formed in a record time in an attempt to contain the political crisis. Although he promised a government of technocrats, young people and women, following the replacement of 21 out of 27 Ministers his Cabinet counts only a handful of women and he has been accused by his predecessor Ahmed Ouyahiya to fill the posts with Ministers nobody had heard about.

The current interim ruling elite is also perceived as neophytes while some are seen as part of the incumbent President’s clan by the Algerian population. In addition, the 77-year-old interim President Abelkader Bensalah is also a staunch supporter of Bouteflika. The invisible hand of the former wheelchaired leader will, therefore, be felt during the transition before which the country will go to polls to decide on its fate.

Given the long-standing relationship between the EU and Algeria in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the existing cooperation in the areas of energy, security and migration, the EU is vigilantly watching the developments in its Southern neighbour. Commenting on the situation in Algeria, the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini stressed that “it is vital that the legitimate aspirations of the Algerian people are addressed,” who should “decide by themselves and for themselves how to make this transition happen”.

What the people on the streets are demanding is the renewal of the political elite but it is questionable whether the upcoming elections are about to bring it. The military has been the cornerstone of politics since the independence of Algeria in 1962, approving and removing every President, and even cancelling the legislative elections of 1992 which resulted in civil war. Given the fragmentation of the opposition, who failed to propose a single candidate against Bouteflika, protestors seeking the democratisation of the country could be further disappointed if the established powers continue to control his succession. This could even further embolden the military interference in the political system.


The stepping down of Bouteflika does not foretell a significant regime change in Algeria. The protestors understood it and will once again hit the streets on 5 April to call for a thorough political transition. They fear of a dangerous war of clans since the direct implication of General Salah, pinned down as a presidential favourite. Their democratic demands could never see the daylight if the country finds itself in a Sisi-type scenario that played out in Egypt.