Bouteflika’s Succession Plan in Flux
By Colton Quist
The Algerian presidential elections have been in a state of flux since the beginning of 2019. Initially former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika intended to run for reelection to a fifth term in office, but amid an outpouring of protests at this prospect due to allegations of corruption he withdrew his reelection bid and postponed the election as a result. The election was originally scheduled for April 18, 2019 has been rescheduled for July 4th (“Alegeria sets presidential…”). Shortly after announcing he would not seek a fifth term Bouteflika resigned as president leaving the head of the Council of the Nation (Algeria’s upper house of parliament), Abdelkader Bensalah, to be acting head of state. Bensalah is not able to participate as a candidate in the election under Algerian law (“Algerian Constitutional Council…”).
Previous to Bouteflika’s resignation Bensalah was a prominent ally of the president (Deutsche). He had begun to perform some of the president’s duties such as welcoming world leaders while Bouteflika was experiencing health problems (“Bouteflika loyalist…”). This close connection has sparked concern among opponents of Bouteflika that despite his resignation the government has not substantially changed. In addition to Bensalah, many of the former president’s allies occupy other high-level positions as well.
These concerns have proven significant enough with the populace to maintain the energy of the protests that forced Bouteflika from office. There has been some evidence of purposeful internet disruption in areas where protesting has occurred (“Multiple targeted…”). It is likely that this disruption has been carried out by the Algerian government in an attempt to stymie the protests.
As a result of continuing protests and opposition, the effort to replace Bouteflika has proved to be difficult. Some major figures decided to boycott the election in a sign of solidarity with protestors who believe that any election held by the current government will be unfair. Still, a number of candidates intended to run, however the deadline for candidates to register for the postponed July 4th election passed on May 25th. Initial reports suggested that no candidates successfully registered as a result of failing to get the required number of signatures (Khairat), but the government later stated that two candidates had registered successfully. The candidates Abdelhakim Hamadi and Hamid Touahri are not known to the public (“Two candidates registered”).
The announcement of these two candidates would seem to indicate that the government intends to carry out the July 4th election, but it remains unclear if this will happen. There has been ongoing speculation that the election would once again have to be postponed as a result of the ongoing unrest and the lack of viable candidates (Chikhi).
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