Politics & Economics

Can the opposition in Algeria fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika?

North Africa

Algerians are debating the solutions to the current political impasse in Algeria and what the future holds for a country hoping for democracy and freedom.

Protesters continue to flood the streets of Algeria demanding change and an end to autocratic rule in the country. They are demanding an end to the 20-year rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has now pledged to stand down. However, many Algerians are not convinced that he will be true to his word and are worried that even if he does step down, one of his allies will come in to fill his role and thus continue the cycle of authoritarianism in the country.

Algerians, therefore, are determined to continue their efforts to ensure that their country transitions from authoritarianism to democracy. Among the most striking aspects of this protest movement is the fact that the momentum has not dropped and the protests have remained entirely peaceful.

Meanwhile, the traditional opposition has tried to capitalise on the popular protests and have suggested a potential route towards democracy. This includes a transition period of no more than six months, during which the power holders within the outgoing presidency will be transferred to a presidential body based on popular support. This body will form a caretaker government, which will establish an independent electoral monitoring body, and amend the Election Law. It remains to be seen whether this alternative will be accepted by the current ruling class and the protest movement.

Algerians are well aware of their own past, with memories of the ‘Black Decade’, when political unrest led to a bloody civil war that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people, still etched in the psyche of many in Algeria. They are also aware of the fate of many other countries that experienced similar levels of popular anti-government protests and are wary of replicating the bloodshed and military seizure of power in Egypt, the unstable situation in Libya, or the devastation of Syria.

But Algerians also believe in the possibility of a different future, one that brings to fruition an Algeria imagined by them. This popular movement is an expression of this new hope and desire and serves as a unique opportunity for the people’s voices to be heard.