Algerian Presidential Turmoil
By Sam Jacobsen
Beginning in February 2019, Algeria played host to months of fierce protesting over wheelchair-bound President Bouteflika’s bid for re-election that was scheduled to take place in April. The election was subsequently postponed by interim President Bensalah to July 4th. Speculation has been rife in Algeria as well as the foreign media as to whether the election will indicate a maintaining of the status quo or an overhaul of the entire Algerian political system.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82, spent 20 years in power (1999-2019), presiding over a civil war, the turmoil of the Arab Spring, and years of civil unrest. In 2013 he suffered a stroke that restricted his physical capacity to lead the country, confining him to a wheelchair. Beginning with the 2009 re-election campaign (which occurred only after abolishing constitutionally designated terms limits), Bouteflika’s camp had consistently been accused of improper elections practice and fraud. Widespread protests against Bouteflika only began following the announcement that he would seek a fifth term in 2019. Bouteflika subsequently withdrew his bid two months ago as protests reached a political breaking point. In an official statement Bouteflika indicated that he never considered anything other than the foundation of a new republic as his last act for Algeria, but the widespread protests no doubt led to the reconsideration of an election bid.
Despite Bouteflika’s withdrawal from the race, Algerian citizens have continued to express extreme dissatisfaction with the ruling elite. This weekend marked the 14th consecutive week of protests throughout the North African nation, descending in strong numbers upon capital city Algiers. Leaders of the protest have sought to postpone the July 4th elections, proposing a 6 month transition period from the Bouteflika regime. Military leadership of the country appears likely if the July 4th elections are unable to be realized. Algeria’s future remains unclear at this time, but international leaders will be keeping close watch over the country’s future as it represent an important diplomatic and economic force in the Arab world.
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