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  • Students protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers, Algeria, Mar. 5, 2019.

    Students protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers, Algeria, Mar. 5, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 March 2019

Analysts warn that while protests are a consequence of the country's economic crisis, international actors may be interested in influencing the political situation due to Algeria's geopolitical importance. 

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika officially presented his candidacy for the April presidential elections before the country's Constitutional Council. He also published an open letter to calm those who have been protesting in Algiers, Tlemcen, Ghardaia, and other cities for weeks against his fifth bid in office. 

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Algerian Students Protest Against Bouteflika, Demand Elections

Bouteflika promised to quickly implement "public policies guaranteeing a more equitable and just redistribution of the national wealth as well as the elimination of marginalization and social exclusion," the The World Socialist Web Site reported and commented that "the ruling class's great fear is that demonstrations could provoke a broader work mobilization against unemployment, poverty and social inequality."

In his letter, the Algerian 82-year-old president also vowed to enhance "the change of the system" by holding an "inclusive and independent National Conference," which is expected to discuss, elaborate and implement political reforms.

This will be accompanied by the elaboration of a new Constitution, which will be adopted through a referendum for the birth of a "New Republic." In order to do so, President Bouteflika announced that the electoral law will be revisited and an independent electoral organization will be created.

His most important announcement, however, was that he would call for early elections, in which he will not be a candidate, once the new constitution and reforms are approved, meaning he would not be completing a full term in office if he wins the upcoming election.

The snap elections' date, he said, would be defined by the independent electoral organization.

While protests continue and as some opposition parties reject the president's proposal, other political actors and parties see Bouteflika's plan as a realistic one for a political transition from two decades of his rule and the dominance of his leftist National Liberation front, though popular support. 

Ilies Berdiche, a member of the National and Democratic Rally (RND) party, described Bouteflika's proposal as "a fair deal" telling Al-Jazeera that "It will give enough time to opposition parties and civil society organizations to be ready for a major political transition." 

Meanwhile, political analysts warn that while the recent protests are a consequence of the country's economic crisis, international actors may be interested in influencing the political situation due to Algeria's geopolitical importance. 

Bachir Ahmed Aomar, an international analyst who does not rule out that demonstrations could be used by France and its allies for political purposes. "Algeria is North Africa's biggest player in energy issues and has had France as an enemy... we have the experience of what France did in Libya, a country which no longer exists because [the world's] powers destroyed it," Aomar told teleSUR in a recent interview.

For other observers, recent demonstrations remind the region of the 2011 popular uprisings which ended with several North African governments being ousted as the case of Egypt and Tunisia, although such protests did not succeed in Algeria due to different factors and political realities. 

Nevertheless, the upcoming elections are an opportunity for the people to choose in total freedom and sovereignty, Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said.

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