1. Why are there ongoing protests in Algeria?
Thousands of Algerian protesters took to the streets of the capital Algiers for a 25th consecutive Friday, calling for “civil disobedience” against the ruling class amid an ongoing political crisis in the country. The crisis began on February 16 after ageing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to seek a fifth term led to his resignation on April 2 following pressure from the country’s army. Since then, protesters have been calling for the army to step down, and give the people the right of democracy and governance. Protesters are also demanding a complete overhaul of the system which comprises army generals, business gurus and politicians, beginning with the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah and Army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah.
2. Algerian army fears call for its ousting
The Algerian army has shown fears of calls for its ousting, as Internet rights group, NetBlocks, reported on Thursday (August 8) that Algeria blocked internet briefly over a politico-security incident. The group said data it had connected confirmed that: “YouTube and several Google services and websites have been blocked across Algeria on the evening of Thursday 8 August 2019 by state-run Algeria Telecom and other leading internet providers, adding “The restrictions come after the publication of a video where Algeria’s ex-defence minister Khaled Nezzar addressed “members of the National People’s Army” calling on them to “realize the demands of the people,” understood as to be a call for the public to oust military leader Ahmed Gaid Salah.” The army is clearly fearful of a planned outing, and has taken authoritative measures to ensure its position of power, for now at least.
3. Algeria military court orders arrest of former Defense minister
In an act that further supports point 2, An Algerian military court ordered the arrest of former Defense Minister Khaled Nazar, Ennahar TV reported on its website, accusing him and two others of conspiring against the army as well as disrupting public order. Although the army claims to be cracking down on the former ministers, officials and businessmen linked to the ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, it is a sign of the army displaying its authoritative hand, removing any obstacles to its rule.
4. Army calls for polls
Despite the people’s opposition to the army rule in addition to the previous regime, army leaders continue to display a message of united opposition with the public against members of the former president’s regime that are still in the government. Algeria‘s powerful army chief has ruled out accepting any preconditions for talks to end the country’s political crisis, saying there was “no more time to lose”. “There is no more time to lose,” said army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah during a speech to a ceremony, which was broadcast on the television, slamming what he called “preconditions which amount to diktats”. It remains to be seen whether the army will allow a compromise.
5. Crisis hurting Algerian economy
The current political crisis in Algeria is hurting the nation’s economy, as little is done to avert an impending economic crisis inherent to a rentier economic model hinging on oil revenues. The looming economic crisis will add a layer of complexity to an already complicated situation as it is only a matter of time before protesters shift focus from political demands to economic ones, with the political future of the nation unsure. It is unlikely that the current army leaders will develop the economic reform needed to save the country from a debt crisis.