With strong public protest against the Bouteflika regime, it is unclear what the future holds in store for Algeria

Throughout March, many political parties, civil society associations, personalities and professional organisations called for mass demonstrations on Friday 15 March. Their scale was important and, because they are increasing week by week, the regime can no longer attempt to claim that ‘the silent majority’ is in favour of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s proposal to remain in power during an undefined transitional period.

Throughout March, many political parties, civil society associations, personalities and professional organisations called for mass demonstrations on Friday 15 March. Their scale was important and, because they are increasing week by week, the regime can no longer attempt to claim that ‘the silent majority’ is in favour of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s proposal to remain in power during an undefined transitional period.

The government’s attempt to regain the initiative was almost immediately rejected by ‘the street’. Attempts by the recently appointed Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, and his deputy Ramtane Lamamra, to explain the regime’s approach were unconvincing.

The question of constitutional legality is becoming increasingly important. Lamamra and Bedoui have so far attempted to trivialise the matter and have suggested that ‘the law should not stand in the way of improving society’.

This, however, raises at least two important issues. One is the question of whether a new regime, in the form of a ‘second republic’, might attempt to revoke laws and contracts passed or signed after 28 April. That is the date after which point the prolongation of the Presidency, and perhaps also its appointed government, becomes unlawful in terms of the Constitution. Regime attempts to temporarily freeze the Constitution may also be deemed illegal

Foreign companies operating in Algeria might be well advised to take legal advice on this possibility. This situation, possibly still only hypothetical at this stage, could, for example, have a bearing on the new Hydrocarbons Law, if it is promulgated after 28 April.

The second point concerns the army. Army Chief of Staff, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, has recently been reiterating at almost every occasion the commitment and the oath of the Armée nationale populaire (ANP) to defend to Constitution. Because the regime’s latest plans are unconstitutional, what will he do? Because he is party to the regime’s deliberations on the ‘Bouteflika proposals’, the answer is probably ‘nothing’. However, if that turns out to be the case, it could provide discontented younger officers with the ‘constitutional’ grounds to move against him.

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