Algeria – power leaks from "le pouvoir"

Summary: army chief administers coup de grace on Bouteflika. A Second Republic?
Since our posting of 18 March there have been daily reports showing that power has slipped away from “le pouvoir”, the ageing and secretive elite that has controlled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

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2 thoughts on “Algeria – power leaks from "le pouvoir"”

  1. An Arab Digest member

    While we are witnessing an incredible and peaceful movement, the street still can’t find a spokesperson, a representative, someone that can take the lead and represent the voices of the young men and women fighting for a real change. The unfortunate thing we’re witnessing is that all individuals from the oppositions are working in silos, trying to gain visibility for themselves instead of visible and credible solution for the crisis, while they had plenty of opportunities during the latest six weeks to gather and step in with a platform for transition.
    When the military proposed to move back to the Constitution, claiming a power vacuum and providing the head of the Senate 45 days to prepare for another election, the implementation of this procedure is only possible if the two following steps are completed; a) the self-referral of the Constitutional Council, voted unanimously by its members, b) validation by 2/3 of the two chambers.
    For background, the Constitutional Council is composed of 12 members appointed for a single term of eight years: four appointed by the President of the Republic including the President of the Constitutional Council and his Vice-President, two elected by the Parliament, two elected by the Council of the Nation, two elected by the Supreme Court, and two elected by the State Council.
    Anyhow, the step (a) is still questionable, since the Constitutional Council is not an independent institution, as we might think, since the head of the CC is the President of the Republic himself, who delegates his power to the Minister of Justice.
    Therefore, I assume that these solutions won’t get the Algerians very far. However the possibility of a power vacuum outside the CC auto-referral can be dealt with via the constitution, by having the Head of the Senate prepare for an election over 90 days, but this solution will also require 1) resignation of the president, b) the end of his term i.e. waiting until April 28th, 3) deciding whether Algeria needs an election today to fix its issues, or needs to build its second Republic first instead!

  2. Today saw another huge protest in Algiers. The streets were so packed with protesters that it was frequently impossible to move in any direction. The atmosphere was like a party. It was chaotic but controlled in that it was peaceable and good humoured. Stewards had closed off the roads in central Algiers so that people could walk without cars. There were some first aiders. It seemed a measure of the self control that there were no apparent injuries from the density of people. All ages were there from toddlers to the elderly.
    Every so often there would be groups singing and dancing. At Place Audin and the Grande Poste, the singing was lead and accompanied by assorted instruments. The whole area was taken over by the protesters. The few uniformed police in central Algiers were in a small number of armoured vehicles. Young boys saw the opportunity to climb into the trees which line the streets and up the front of the colonial buildings. Most people wore the Algerian flag, baseball caps and scarves in the Algerian colours. Many carried placards which were cruelly satirical. The messages were clear that it was not about the removal of the President but the removal of the ruling class. The messages indicated that the intervention of the Head of the Armed Forces was not welcomed though the departure of despised businessmen was. Another recurring theme was that this was a “family affair” and any foreign intervention would not be appreciated.
    It felt like witnessing something historic but there were no speakers addressing the crowds to show a particular direction. The sheer weight of numbers suggests that a way forward must emerge but the means is unlikely to be through the conventional political process. The numbers are giving assurance to the protesters though that could be fragile. Although the Friday protests are well reported, there are smaller protests of particular groups – lawyers, students (on Tuesdays), firemen – on most weekdays, but on the day after the announcement by the Head of the Armed Forces, the rue Didouche Mourad fell silent. There was a fear that the military would replace the President with someone of their choosing.
    At the start of the protests, the Islamists were out with the protesters but as a group. This brought a reaction from the crowds and it is now clear that the Islamists are accepted but only if they walk as individuals. This may be a first example of how the protesters can define themselves.

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