The head of Algeria’s ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), on March 21 declared his party’s support for the popular protests calling for the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Media reports say Bouteflika, who has ruled Algeria for 19 years, may step down on April 28.
The protests began in February when Bouteflika, 82, announced plans to run for a fifth term as president and hold elections in April. In a mass movement that has drawn parallels to the demonstrations seen during the Arab Spring, protesters demanded elections be held but without Bouteflika as a candidate.
The FLN, Bouteflika’s own party, has struggled since then to contain the protests and ensure they are not directed against the ruling establishment. A number of different political reforms have been floated by the government, including allowing Bouteflika to extend his present term while allowing a national conference headed by veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi to oversee constitutional reforms. The president also sent an envoy to Russia, presently backing another embattled leader in Venezuela, to shore up international support.
However, several FLN leaders have since resigned to join the demonstrators and called on the FLN’s geriatric leadership to abandon Bouteflika and step aside for a younger generation. A new technocratic minded prime minister, Noureddine Bedoui, has since been appointed and the FLN has now distanced itself from Bouteflika. Whether this will be sufficient to appease the demonstrators who are calling for a caretaker government and the en masse resignation of the cabinet and parliament as well. The protests draw much of their support from disaffected youth angered by the country’s long-standing economic ailments and alienated from the entrenched FLN establishment.
March 28, 2019