Algeria under Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the southeast by Niger, to the southwest by Mali and Mauritania, to the west by Morocco and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. The National Liberation Front (Le Front de libération nationale) has dominated politics ever since Algeria won independence from France in 1962. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced out of office on 2 April 2019 after 20 years in power, and Abdelkader Bensalah was named interim president on the same day. Elections were scheduled for July 2019 but were later postponed because of protests by supporters of the Hirak movement who were disillusioned with the political system and by Algeria’s weak economy and high unemployment, as well as the announcement by President Bouteflika from his Geneva hospital bed that he would seek another five-year term in the 2019 presidential election.

December 2019 Presidential Election
Abdelmadjid Tebboune won a five-year term as president in the election on 12 December 2019. Although he ran for the presidency on an independent ticket, he is an old school regime insider, a loyalist of ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika. As soon as Tebboune’s victory was announced, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Algerian towns in protest. They chanted slogans against Tebboune, who they saw as a continuation of the previous regime, and demanded that the whole political establishment be swept away. Their placards read: ‘your elections are of no concern to us’, ‘We did not vote you president’ and ‘You will not govern us’.

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Algeria Awaking

The recent Algerian awaking which began in early February 2019 has surprised the establishment and North African political analysts. Bouteflika’s regime has since early February been confronted by the biggest protests, in various cities, since he became President on 27 April 1999. Algerians have rarely been allowed to show dissent since the bloody civil war in the 1990s that, according to various records, left 200,000 dead and 15,000 forcibly disappeared. Families are still searching for loved ones.
  The protests began in 2018 and were originally against Bouteflika seeking a fifth term of office, but they became a nation-wide movement when the president published an open letter to the Algerian people on 10 February 2019, asking for support to complete his mission and reform. He said that ‘although my health is not as good as before, I am only responding to people’s call to stand and that is why I am standing for re-election to complete reforms needed’. He continued: ‘If you give me the honour of your precious trust on 18 April 2019, I will invite within this year all forces of people to hold a national symposium, which will focus on reaching consensus on reforms’. One wonders why he had not done so in previous years! His message was simply – un message fort de continuité – ‘Let us carry on’.
  The protesters rejected his call for support, particularly as his Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia accused the protesters of wanting to turn Algeria into another Syria, and called on the army to intervene to end the rebellious actions of activists.

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Algerian political and business tribes own their fight

President Bouteflika (81-years old) who has been ill and in a wheelchair since his hospitalization in France on 26 November 2005, has run his country from his hospital bed. He has not been seen in public since 19 March 2017 and the main news which comes out from his office are communiqués of dismissing or appointing Ministers. The latest was the sacking on 15 August of his Prime Minister, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was only appointed on 25 May 2017, and his replacement with Ahmed Ouayhia, leader of the National Rally for Democracy Party, the second largest party in Algeria, who has been Prime Minister three times (1995-1998, 2003-2006 and 2008-2012). Ouayhia is a close confidant of the President and his brother Said who is hoping to become President, in case his 81-year old brother, Abdelaziz, does not stand for a fifth term in the 2019 election. In fact, a recent French Senate members analysis report at the end of July, said that the ailing 81-year old president is preparing himself for a fifth term despite being a “living dead ”.

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