Le 1er novembre 2020, le référendum constitutionnel sur lequel comptait le pouvoir algérien pour avancer vers des réformes a été éclipsé par l’hospitalisation du président Tebboune. Dans ce Q&A, notre analyste principal pour l’Algérie et la Tunisie, Michael Ayari, anticipe les risques de cette situation.
Pro-democracy Hirak movement continued to gain momentum as it restarted protests after months of online activism. After Hirak late Feb resumed Friday protests despite COVID-19-related ban on gatherings, thousands 5, 12, 19 and 26 Marchtook to streets in capital Algiers and other cities against political and military elites, early elections and repression; several journalists assaulted while covering protest in Algiers 12 March, reportedly by group of individuals operating on behalf of security forces. President Tebboune 11 March scheduled early legislative elections for 12 June. Students also resumed Tuesday marches in Algiers to demand “free and democratic Algeria” and an end to military’s domination. Authorities responded to resurgence of protest movement with combination of repression and co-optation. UN human rights office 5 March expressed concern over “increasing crackdown” on Hirak activists and “deteriorating human rights situation” in country; also alleged hundreds have been detained since street protests resumed in Feb. Tebboune 4 March called on Hirak activists to participate in elected institutions and throughout month continued consultations with political parties and Hirak militants favourable to building consensus with authorities. In alleged attempt to take wind out of Hirak, Tebboune’s adviser in charge of relations with civil society and diaspora 6 March announced creation of “National Initiative” (Nidaa al Watan), gathering hundred associations and trade unions, to “create a force of proposal to promote reforms”. Authorities also played up political and identity divisions within protest movement, notably by agitating spectre of Islamist violence. Court in Algiers 21 Marchissued international arrest warrants against four activists close to Hirak on terrorism charges, notably accusing former diplomat Mohamed Larbi Zitout – prominent leader of outlawed Rachad movement gathering former Islamic Salvation Front’s officials – of seeking to turn Hirak into violent movement. Authorities 30 March announced arrest of five people on suspicion of planning “terrorist” acts against Hirak protests in north. Amid growing tensions with Morocco over Western Sahara, authorities mid-March reportedly ordered Moroccan farmers to leave El Arja border area in south by 18 March.
Les retombées économiques et sociales de la crise de Covid-19 et les mesures de confinement risquent de multiplier les défis auxquels l’Algérie est confrontée. Les autorités devraient desserrer leur étau sur la contestation populaire et établir un dialogue économique avec le hirak.
A groundswell of popular unrest has ended Bouteflika’s twenty-year rule and brought Algeria to a fork in the road. The regime should embark on substantive reforms and enter dialogue with protest leaders in order to prevent the cycle of mass protests and repressive counter-measures spiralling out of control.
Political paralysis in oil-dependent Algeria has blocked much-needed economic reform. To avoid a new era of instability, the government should increase transparency and accountability within state institutions and the private sector, as well as improve opportunities for the country’s burgeoning youth.
As waves of protests have hit the hydrocarbon-rich Algerian south since 2013, authorities maintained a tenuous peace through handouts, repression and policing. To calm tensions, the state needs to clarify policies, communicate with local protestors and address underlying issues of governance.
Algeria has emerged as an indispensable broker of stability in North Africa and the Sahel. But, especially as it enters a generational transition in domestic politics, it needs better strategies to deal with financial pressures, a neighbourhood in turmoil, cross-border jihadi threats, and ongoing tensions with France and Morocco. It should also resolve a presidential succession that is paralysing institutions.
This is the third of a series of briefings and reports on Islamism in North Africa. The first provided general background on the range and diversity of Islamic activism in the region, and subsequent papers examine with respect to particular states, the outlook and strategies of the main Islamist movements and organisations, their relations with the state and each other and how they have evolved. The analysis focuses on the relationship between Islamic activism and violence, especially but not only terrorism and the problem of political reform in general and democratisation in particular.
[...] here we have three crises -- economic, political and the virus -- potentially converging at a time when the population is still highly mobilized and trust in the [Algerian] state is low.
The [Algerian] protest movement could be made more determined in the future due to the economic and social consequences of the [COVID-19] restrictions, as well as the repression.
[The fall in oil prices] may not be so bad, if it is only for a month or two, but if it is for longer, [Algeria] will have to speed up its adoption of austerity measures.
The army and intelligence services [in Algeria] are still important but not as an autonomous pole of power.
Protests in Algeria are not about rule by one man but a system. One that has empowered a business class with close links to the state while progressively stifling economic and political liberties and excluding an earnest, educated youth.
A new wave of popular protests has jolted an already deeply unsettled Arab world. Nine years ago, uprisings across the region signalled a rejection of corrupt autocratic rule that failed to deliver jobs, basic services and reliable infrastructure. Yet regime repression and the protests’ lack of organisation, leadership and unified vision thwarted hopes of a new order. As suddenly as the uprisings erupted, as quickly they descended into violence. What followed was either brutal civil war or regime retrenchment. Tunisia stands as the sole, still fragile, exception.
Originally published in Valdai Club
Une série de protestations contre « le mandat de trop » s’est emparée du pays depuis l’annonce de la candidature du président Bouteflika à l’élection d'avril. Dans ce questions-réponses, notre analyste Michaël Ayari, de retour d’Algérie, se penche sur les ressorts d’une mobilisation inédite et examine les scénarios possibles.
Refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, have long been run by the Polisario movement, which seeks an independent state in Western Sahara, also claimed by Morocco. But a new generation of Sahrawi refugees is growing fractious as aid dwindles and diplomatic efforts fail to deliver a settlement.