A wave of demonstrations has swept across Algeria in recent weeks after the country’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his decision to seek a fifth term in office.
The anti-government protests are the largest display of public anger in the North African country since the Arab Spring and the biggest threat to Bouteflika’s 20-year-rule.
What has been happening?
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital and cities across Algeria on Friday for the third consecutive week of demonstrations.
“Many of the protesters started marching even before the end of weekly prayers, a new development in what has become a wildfire popular revolt organised largely through social media,” the New York Times reports.
The marches were largely peaceful, according to local reports, though riot police used tear gas to disperse protesters and nearly 200 people were detained.
Several lawmakers of the ruling FLN party have resigned to join the protests, and some long-time allies of President Bouteflika have expressed support for the demonstrations, “revealing cracks within a ruling elite long regarded as invincible,” according to Reuters.
What’s behind the protests?
The protests were triggered by the 82-year-old president’s decision to stand again in elections scheduled for April 18 despite severe ill health.
Bouteflika “has been all but absent from the public eye” since suffering a debilitating stroke in 2013, “prompting critics to question whether he is being used as a puppet candidate by a shadowy cabal of civilian and military figures close to the octogenarian,” Al Jazeera reports.
Mohamed Lamine, a 22-year-old student who attended the protests on Friday, said: “It’s the whole system I want to get rid of. I know very well that when I finish my studies, I have no future in this country.”
But while the protests may have started as student-led demonstrations, a broad cross-section of the population - some of whom have never been politically active before – have since taken to the streets, says Dalia Ghanem, an Algerian resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center.
“I’ve seen people from different generations and from different socio-economic backgrounds. Students were there, lawyers were there, doctors were there, the unemployed were there. This was really the scream of the people,” she told CNN.
Is this the beginning of something bigger?
The protests in Algeria revive memories of the popular uprisings that swept the region in 2011, toppling the leaders of neighbouring Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, Andrew England writes in the Financial Times.
Back then, the Algerian authorities “responded proactively to contain protests that were mainly led by angry, unemployed youths,” he says. “But today’s protests have taken on a far more national tenor, bringing together young and old, rich and poor, in cities and town across Africa’s largest country.”
However, Rana Jawad, the BBC’s North Africa correspondent is wary of drawing comparisons to the Arab Spring and says the “days of romanticising popular movements in this region are long gone”.
“This is not 2011 and the Arab Spring all over again,” she says. “Libya and Syria continue to serve as a lesson to Western powers of all that can go wrong.”
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.