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Algeria: Bye-Bye to Bouteflika

Algeria: Bye-Bye to Bouteflika
The largest protests to hit Algeria since the “Arab Spring” stunningly resulted in long-serving President Bouteflika changing his mind about running for a controversial fifth term in office.

The over two-thirds of the population that are under the age of 30 barely recall the bloody civil war of the 1990s that Bouteflika greatly contributed to ending, and many of them are anxious for their futures amid the country's unemployment epidemic and the perception that the economy has stagnated. Some protesters also felt offended in principle that Bouteflika would want to run for yet another term in office when there's been rampant speculation that the elderly leader has been physically incapacitated since his last stroke in 2013 and that the country is really being run by high-ranking members of the military-intelligence security apparatus.

All of these factors combined to create one of the country's largest-ever peaceful protest movements that has thus far succeeded in getting Bouteflika change his mind about running for another term in office and to postpone elections until his people vote on a new constitution that his administration promised to immediately begin working on. Supporters say that this is a responsible move aimed at carefully guiding the country through its ongoing political transition in order to avoid inadvertently undermining the progress that's been made since the end of the civil war while critics decry it as an insincere tactic to buy time until the behind-the-scenes security elite can agree on someone to replace him as part of a scam aimed at deceptively implementing cosmetic change instead of the systemic change that they want.

Both Bouteflika and the Army Chief previously warned against infiltrators who might try to exploit the protests in order to return the country back to civil war, signaling that the security services won't hesitate to intervene as needed to prevent banned Islamist groups from repeating the Syrian scenario. Algeria's continued stability is immensely important for Europe because the North African state is regarded as having one of the continent's most powerful militaries that allows it to crucially function as a bulwark against the northward spread of terrorist and immigration threats from the sub-Saharan region. Any serious weakening of the state could therefore have immediate consequences for European security, not least because of Algeria's proximity to Western Europe and the transnational connections between its French-based diaspora and their compatriots back home, thus explaining Europeans' interest in what's happening there.

Andrew Korybko is joined by Hamid Tariqi, Moroccan political commentator and Djella Smaine, Independent researcher and Doctor of Political Science and International Relations from Algeria.

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