New mass protests against algeria’s president bouteflika

New mass protests against algeria's president bouteflika

Algerian caricaturists have always been biting. Sometimes a general holds the infusion bag of the seriously ill president, sometimes a military man in a wheelchair lifts him up so that the president can cast his vote in the election and reach the ballot box.

But one of the most frequent motifs is: the president as ghost. It has been a long time since abdelaziz bouteflika showed himself to his people. And above all the young people in the country have had enough of the rehearsed political theater.

Since bouteflika announced in the middle of the month that he would run for president in the presidential election on 18 june, the. April to run for a fifth term, demonstrations are taking place all over the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have turned out in recent days, and on friday around ten thousand gathered in the capital algiers alone. They demanded that bouteflika not run again.

"Bouteflika should withdraw before it’s too late," says 23-year-old student yassin from algiers. "The corruption, the bureaucracy, the economic situation: it’s all more than bad."Despite a ban on demonstrations in the algerian capital, the security forces are still allowing the masses of dissatisfied people to march. Only a few arrests or the use of trangas and water cannons have been made so far.

For a long time, bouteflika was seen as a guarantor of stability in algeria. Supported by the military, he won the election in 1999. The military saw him as the right person to reunite the country after the devastating civil war of the 1990s. Algeria’s "black decade" has seen, according to estimates, between 60.000 and 200.000 fatalities claimed.

Since then, algerians have known before the election who would end up as president, says political analyst and former deputy mustapha bouchachi. "We have no elections. The regime decides who will be president and then asks the people to approve it."Le pouvoir – the power" decides in algeria. Who belongs to this class of clans, militaries and influential people is unclear to many observers.

In deciding to allow bouteflika to run again, "le pouvoir" has made a gross mistake. "Everyone in the country knows that bouteflika is no longer capable of running the country," says bouchachi. "Many algerians now see the renewed candidacy as a humiliation."

Bouteflika had not addressed his people for six years. The head of state, who is in poor health, hardly ever appears in public anymore. Since suffering a stroke in 2013, bouteflika, born in 1937, has been confined to a wheelchair. He increasingly cancels political meetings and public appearances. On sunday, he was supposed to inaugurate the new rude mosque of algiers. But he must travel to geneva for medical examinations, the presidential palace announced shortly beforehand. German chancellor angela merkel’s trip was also spontaneously canceled in spring 2017, when part of the delegation was already at the airport in berlin.

Relations between berlin and algiers are good. Germany ranks fifth internationally for imports from algeria. The federal republic imports mainly oil and natural gas. In return, germany supplies machinery and cars – and rustic goods. Algeria is the best customer for the german rustic industry.

Despite algeria’s economic problems, high unemployment and the dissatisfaction of the younger generation, the country under bouteflika has remained relatively stable in the eyes of the public. The elections so far have followed a well-rehearsed pattern, as can be read in a message from the american embassy in algiers published by wikileaks as early as 2009.

"To no one’s surprise, president abdelaziz bouteflika has been elected to his third term," the report, classified as "confidential," read. Bouteflika won with 90 percent of the vote, and even then the dominant theme was the lack of prospects for young people.

The U.S. Embassy then also speaks of a "carefully choreographed and tightly controlled election". Resignation among the people was spreading more and more. In the last parliamentary elections two years ago, only 38 percent of the electorate went to the polls – according to official figures.

But the time of lethargy is over. Prime minister ahmed ouyahia, in an effort to contain the protest, had then called the demands of the demonstrations legitimate. But the right place, the prime minister said, was the ballot box. But hardly anyone in algeria still believes in them. "All united," echoed a call by the mouwatana alliance in the run-up to friday’s demonstrations. "We are marching to regain our sovereignty."

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