Algerian President's Transition Period Proposal Attempt To Retain Power, Quell Protests

Algerian President's Transition Period Proposal Attempt to Retain Power, Quell Protests

The recent proposal of Algeria's long-serving President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to postpone an election set for April 18 and have a period of transition to a new leadership gives him time to hold on to power, but is unlikely to stop anti-government protests that erupted in the African country last month, experts told Sputnik

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 14th March, 2019) The recent proposal of Algeria's long-serving President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to postpone an election set for April 18 and have a period of transition to a new leadership gives him time to hold on to power, but is unlikely to stop anti-government protests that erupted in the African country last month, experts told Sputnik.

On Monday, Bouteflika said he would not seek a fifth term in office and proposed to set up "a national conference," which is expected to oversee the transition, draft Algeria's new constitution and set the date for new elections. Former UN diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi is expected to chair the conference. Yet, anti-government protests continued on Tuesday, with people demanding immediate political changes from Bouteflika.

Dr. Laeed Zaghlami, professor at the Faculty of Information and Communication of Algiers University, and Dr. Hugh Roberts, the Edward Keller Professor of North African and middle Eastern History at Tufts University, shared their views on Bouteflika's proposal and the current situation in Algeria.

TENTATIVE ATTEMPT TO REMAIN IN POWER

According to Zaghlami, the transition period, proposed by Bouteflika, could last between six months and a year, giving way to fears of the president's new tactic to stay in power.

"Although people said they were happy that he [Bouteflika] would not stand in the elections, on the other hand, they said that they would like to have the elections on April 18 but without [Bouteflika]. They said they ... want a new president because what he did, the last proposal of yesterday [Monday], is that this is a new kind of maneuver to remain in power," Zaghlami said.

And although Bouteflika promised not seek re-election, he said he would be in charge of the transition period, and that is "what the citizens refuse to accept," the professor argued.

"On the contrary they ask for new demonstrations, expected to take place Friday, March 15. So I would say his proposal has had mixed feelings but more or less the citizens are declining his offer and they find that it is another way to buy time, although he is already on borrowed time," Zaghlami noted.

Algeria's opposition expressed similar views, calling for a new independent authority to lead the transition period in the country, according to the professor.

"I think that he [Bouteflika] is a president who has been rejected by the whole population.

Although he and his team want to stay in power, we are coming to a deadlock situation where people are putting more pressure for him to move away after April 18. After his mandate, they want a new face," Zaghlami underlined.

Roberts, on his part, noted there was no certainty Bouteflika's proposal would work and be able to achieve national consensus.

"This [transition period] could take far longer than eight months and could generate intense controversy and fail to achieve a genuine national consensus on change. If Bouteflika's proposal is clearly rejected by public opinion, the army commanders could decide to rethink everything and hold the election in the next 2-3 months," Roberts stressed.

It could happen only if the army commanders managed to agree on a new candidate "capable of winning the trust of the public as the person with the moral and political authority needed to lead the process of reform," he pointed out.

ALGERIA'S PROTESTS COULD SPREAD TO NEIGHBORING MOROCCO, TUNISIA

Both Zaghlami and Roberts suggested that protests in Algeria could potentially spread to neighboring countries with fragile democracies, like Morocco and Tunisia.

"Tunisia still has a fragile democracy; they have still not come out of their democratic process. In fact, the collective of people in Morocco and Tunisia as well, they will want more democracy, more freedom. From the side of the authorities, they are afraid that people will ask for more rights," Zaghlami said.

Roberts stressed, in turn, that as long as the Algerian crisis is unresolved, there is not much likelihood that people in other countries will imitate the Algerians, since these other countries have all had their protest movements already.

"A possible exception is Morocco; while the monarchy is secure, elements of Moroccan society may be inspired by the Algerian example to emulate the impressive demonstrations we have seen, but for more modest objectives," he added.

Algerians have been protesting since February 22, days after Bouteflika, 82, announced his bid to run in the April 18 election. Amid the rallies, Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke in 2013 and has since been wheelchair-bound, had to pledge in a written statement, that if re-elected, he would call a snap vote and would not run in it to ensure the transition of power to a new president.

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