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Can Algeria contain a looming ‘’disguise’’ coup ?

01.04.2019
Article from AFRIC editorial
Over the years, Africa has been trying to consolidate democratic principles through conduction of elections. This has become very strong at a time many young Africans have widened their political philosophies, thus making them more involved in the politics. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo recently stated ‘’Democracy is taking root in Africa,’’ He, however, warned that growing ‘’political stars’’ stand as a setback to the many African leaders who have long been in power. The effects of globalization and changing times are so enormous. The news of fresh elections in Algeria in recent times brought mayhem to the country. Consequently, Algeria has witnessed another turbulent moment after a civil and the 2011 Arab spring.

As has been the case in many African countries, protests have rocked Algiers and other cities within and without, calling for political reforms in the country. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s quest for a fifth term in office has been strongly condemned by locals and even political elites within and without is ruling coalition party.

President Bouteflika under pressure to quit

The moment President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared his intention to seek a fifth term in the April 2019, presidential elections, opened another turbulent scene in the country on February 22, 209 when protesters took to the streets. Angry protesters argued that the president is frail, old and not physically strong to control the affairs of the state, they also called for new reforms in the political and economic spheres.  The power of public opinion equally manifested itself in the North African Country, as the ailing 82-year-old President Bouteflika finally withdrew his candidacy for the April 18 slated election. He however, pushed the election to an unfixed date, making things more problematic in the country. Some political pundits have argued that the election postponement is an attempt by President Bouteflika to hold on to power.

His resignation from the presidential race has not pacified the protesters, as calls remain high for him to quit the El Mouradia Palace. Top Algerian officials including Judges, army, and President Bouteflika’s political allies, joined the march and heartily called on Bouteflika to heed the call of patriots on the streets.

Lawyers Calls

In March, over one thousand (1000) judges in Algeria threatened to boycott all preparations to the impending presidential elections, should Bouteflika complete in the race. The role of top judges in overseeing elections in a country cannot be challenged, thus, the judges’ involvement intensified pressure on president Abdelaziz to step down.

The Army’s voice

In many cases, when the army is involved in political affairs of a state, a coup d’état can be unavoidable. The Army on March 27, 2019, urged the constitutional court to declare incumbent president Abdelaziz Bouteflika ‘’unfit’’ to rule. General Ahmed Gaid Salah said, “It is necessary, even imperative, to adopt a solution to get out of the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Algerian people, and which guarantees the respect of the provisions of the constitution and safeguards the sovereignty of the state.”  The military’s call is backed by Article 102 of the constitution, which states that a president can be removed if found unfit to rule. In unison with the people, the military is at the verge of finding a lasting solution to the political upheaval. The military wants to save Algeria from the ordeals of a civil war. With the army’s stance, many questioned have been raised as to if the military will directly take over power or exert pressure on Bouteflika to resign.

The army’s intervention pushed the coalition ally of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), to call for the resignation of President Bouteflika. The National Rally for Democracy headed by dismissed Premier Ahmed Ouyahia said the party sought to see a democratic transition in the country, saying this can be achieved if ailing Bouteflika steps down as president. PM Ouyahia steeped down on March 11, 2019.  A call for a national conference by the president to solve the political impasse fell on deaf ears, as it didn’t pacify protesters and his ruling FLN party. The ruling party supported the constitutional removal of serving leader. Notwithstanding,  while France through its FM Jean Yves Le Drain applauded Bouteflika’s decision to drop from the presidential race, Russia through the voice of FM Sergei Lavrov warned against foreign middling in the internal affairs of Algeria, which can be constitutionally solved.

Proposed solutions

On March 23, 2019, opposition parties and unions suggested ‘’roadmap’’ that could end the strife in Algeria, which originated on Feb 22 when President Abdelaziz validated his bid for a fifth term in office. A meeting attended by Bouteflika’s major political rival Ali Benflis and the main Islamist party, the Movement for the Society of Peace, called for a transition period of six months taking effect from April 28, 2019, when Bouteflika’s mandate officially ends. The roadmap advocates for the formation of a “presidential body” to manage the affairs on the sate throughout the transition period.  According to them this ‘’presidential body’’ would involve “national figures known for their credibility, integrity and competence”. The neutrality of the members of the ‘’presidential body’’ is highly solicited.

In the same light, the lawyers on March 30 called for the invalidation of the current constitution, which according to them does not favour credible elections, thus, called for a special constitutional decree for the transitional period.

Formation of a new government

In the middle of the political impasse, controversial president Abdelaziz On March 31, 2019, announced a new government to manage the transition process in the protest-hit country. The new ‘’caretaker’’ government is headed by newly appointed Premier Noureddine Bedoui. Even though many have hailed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for having rescued the country after a decade old civil and also for containing the Arab spring which hit the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, pundits think it’s high time President Bouteflika ends his political career given his deteriorating health.  The 82-year-old president has been president of the North African nation since 1999.

His reign became controversial in 2013 after he suffered a stroke which reduced him to a ‘’wheelchair president’’. Analysts have argued that Bouteflika is largely seen as a ceremonial president, which is not backed by the constitution. His last public appearance was in 2014, after his re-election. But the question remains, will the departure of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika be the solution the economic slowdown brought about by falling oil prices? Are the plans of the Zimbabwe-styled coup in Algeria? These question remain problematic and can only be answered in the coming weeks.

Article from AFRIC editorial.

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