The move to arrest former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s powerful younger brother Saïd Bouteflika, along with two former intelligence chiefs — General Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediène and General Athman ‘Bachir’ Tartag — and a number of pro-Bouteflika oligarchs is not just a concession to the popular movement. It is more likely to be motivated by an increasingly obvious clan struggle within the regime between the Bouteflika clan and that of the Army Chief of Staff General Ahmed Gaïd Salah.
This is the extraordinarily rapidly dismantlement of Bouteflikism but not the regime. Such arrests would have been almost unimaginable a few weeks ago. The speed at which Bouteflikism has collapsed is seen as evidence that its promoter built nothing of substance. It was a rule based on the annihilation of morality by falsehood, religious deception, corruption, nepotism, abuse of power and injustice which has shamed and humiliated Algeria.
The Bouteflika clan was so full of incompetent people that it did not see or hear the wave of protest that was coming. Former premier Ahmed Ouyahia — one of the canniest and most hated of the regime’s politicians — likened the protests to a little wind blowing through a fishing net. He is now under investigation and is facing the possibility of serious charges.
As the Algerian journalist Nidal Aloui wrote last week: ‘Institutions are not offices and official buildings. The state is not the exercise of personal authority. The state is the equitable application of the law to all citizens. In short, [the state] is all that Bouteflikism has despised, but which is likely to continue if change is limited to substituting one pawn with another’.
The fact that the influential Louisa Hanoune — head of the opposition Parti des Travailleurs (PT) — has now also been arrested is worrying. It suggests that Gaïd Salah’s next target will be the main opposition parties. This will only inflame the tensions between the army and the large scale weekly demonstrations.