Protests in Algeria against the interim president: Change or old guard?
Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The announcement in Algeria of Abdelkader Bensalah becoming the interim president witnessed fresh potent demonstrations. In truth, it also says much about the gap between the old guard of loyalists toward the late President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and demonstrators who want change. Of course, the demonstrators will have an array of ideas and thinking but the binding theme is changing the political landscape.
After the interim president in parliament was announced Bensalah declared, “I need everyone during this period in our country to apply the constitution strictly, to work hard, faithfully and with dedication in order to return as soon as possible the word to the people.”
Hence, his announcement follows the same logic uttered by the influential Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah after he declared Bouteflika to be unfit to rule based on his health. In other words, the constitution and the guidance of the old guard are deemed to be essential in stabilizing Algeria during the current period of political uncertainty.
Yet, for many demonstrators, irrespective if democratic or having Islamist leanings – to more revolutionary idealism or ordinary people who are focused on bread and butter issues – they are all united by the desire for political change. For them, the current binding theme is ending the rule of the old guard and opening up society to a different way.
Last month, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah uttered, “the only guarantee to preserve a stable political situation” was a constitutional way out. Hence, Bensalah is following the same mantra.
Reuters reports, “Bensalah said he would consult with the political class and civil society. A long-time ally of Bouteflika, he is seen by protesters as part of an aging and out-of-touch ruling caste that has dominated since independence from France in 1962.”
The security apparatus is currently acting with restraint because of a wait and see approach but with the military and political elites still supporting the guidance of the old guard. Therefore, the fear is that if the old guard and new forces entering the political landscape can’t reach an accommodation – then, what next?
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