While President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announcement that he will contest the April 2019 election may have removed the suspense about a fifth term, there has also been a sense that it may also have lit the touch-paper to something that is potentially very explosive.
For the opposition parties and the vast majority of the population the looming reality of a fifth term is hard to swallow.
For example, in the opinion of Jil Jadid’s leader, Soufiane Djilali, there is no longer any hope for those who have been holding out for peaceful change through the ballot box. For him, Bouteflika and his family — along with General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, Ahmed Ouyahia, Abdelmalek Sellal, Abdelmadjid Sidi-Saïd and all the others whose greed is matched only by their obsequiousness — face potentially dramatic consequences.
The one thing the regime fears is the loss of the impunity which is provided by a continued Bouteflika presidency. For some of them this may well be a matter of life or death because the treasonable charges against them are likely to be very high.
In recent months the idea that Bouteflika would stand for a fifth term has been met in the ‘street’ and its social media networks with varying degrees of frustration, humiliation and indignation. There has certainly seen a noticeable increase in anger with young people beginning to take to the streets.
Those speaking on behalf of Bouteflika are getting more abusive heckling than has been usual in the past. At Oum El Bouaghi, for example, young people shouted angrily at the speaker: ‘Where is the President?’ At Bordj Bou Arréridj at least a hundred young people took to the street chanting hostile slogans against both Bouteflika and Ouyahia. There were also demonstrations of a similar order in Chlef, Tizi Ouzou and Oran and, according to our own sources, several other places that were not reported in the media.
The police appear to have allowed the demonstrations to proceed without making any attempt to stop them. This is almost certainly because Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui gave orders to allow people to let off steam in the hope that the storm will pass. Whether it will do so or not remains to be seen. The next week or two — and especially the few days after 3 March when candidacies are confirmed — will be telling.
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