A new dawn has broken over Algeria amid numerous problems faced by Algerians across the country. After months of protests that led to the removal of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office in April, the country has finally chosen a new leader. The new President is 74-year-old Tebboune Abdelmadjid was sworn in as the country’s new President on December 19. For months, Algerians have protested on a daily basis to demand that the country’s political elite quit altogether and pave the way for a new government to take over as economic and social problems continue to persist.
Understanding Algeria’s Political Instability
In order to discuss Algeria and the continuous protests that the country has seen this year, one must take into consideration the initial problems that brought the country to a standstill and how the protests turned into a national affair. Algeria’s history can be better understood if we acknowledge the hand of the military in the country’s political affairs. Algeria’s army fought French colonialism in the 1960s and the army believes that it is “the guardian of the nation.” The army has intervened repeatedly in Algeria’s daily affairs but in 1999 when Bouteflika came into power, the assurance of the military not returning to politics was promised. However, that did not materialize as a widespread grip by the establishment could be seen.
Algeria’s key problems stemmed from the lack of political institutionalization. Today, the top military leaders wish to retain their hold and titles in the army and remain unwilling to cede power to civilians. Algeria’s economy is also in tatters. Protests that erupted after Bouteflika attempted to seek a fifth term—despite his ailing health and inability to lead the country—brought on an economic crisis that could take years to end. Fully 30 percent of Algeria’s GDP depends on the oil and gas sector but due to mismanagement and the constant change of hands at the top of the hierarchy, these sectors have been severely mismanaged, heralding and unsure and gloomy future for the country. The problems don’t end here. When protests started, the removal of the country’s political elite wasn’t the only demand.
In Bouteflika’s almost 20 years in power, corruption and mismanagement of the state’s affairs thrived. The failure to provide effective or the required basic services such as healthcare, education, pensions and the supply of utilities such as water and electricity have outraged Algerians. The only problem is; Algeria is unable to fund these services because of years of corruption headed by top political figures.
Can Tebboune Abdelmadjid Make Algeria’s Future Brighter?
Continuous peaceful protests finally led to the confirmation of Tebboune Abdelmadjid. He is man who is no stranger to the running of the country’s political system, having held many important positions under ousted President Bouteflika. He worked as the country’s communications minister in 1999 and was later nominated as the Prime Minister under Bouteflika in 2017. He is also believed to be a close friend of Army Chief Ghaid Salah, who recently passed away after suffering a heart attack.
Tebboune has drawn up a list of promises which he says will be implemented effectively and immediately. Will he be able to keep his promises, or will he falter like his predecessors? That is a question that only time will tell, but let’s take a look at the commitments that he has offered to his people.
Tebboune says his first and foremost priority will be to establish a republic which will “meet the aspirations of the people” and the promotion of “participatory democracy.” In an earlier televised address, he also said that he would be separating powers to implement a set of comprehensive reforms that would target all state institutions. Addressing the problem of unemployment, a major issue that protesters wanted to deal with during protests, Tebboune said he will rebuild the economy in order to facilitate more youth opportunities so that young Algerians can play a larger role in the future of the economy. Tebboune says Algeria’s youth, who have also played an important role in the continuation of peaceful nationwide protests, must not be marginalized.
Protesters Still See Many Problems Ahead
Protesters however, continue to decry the foul policies of Algeria’s government. They believe that the military is the main perpetrator behind civil unrest, covering a coup d’état through a falsely “just” election process. They say it’s a complex tactic which is bound to extend the country’s military-dominated system.
Another important point to mention here would be the sentencing of former Prime Ministers, Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal for 15 and 12 years respectively. This might come as a token of victory for protesters who have pressed the government to enforce fair trials to end corruption. Experts, however, say that these trials are selective and are merely meant to give the people “the impression of the rule of law.” Surprisingly, it is also the first time Algeria has tried any Prime Minister since gaining independence from France in 1962.
Only time will tell what the future holds for over 40 million Algerians who have been persistent in their fight to bring down “the children of the system.” However, one aspect remains certain: Algeria’s new leader will have to implement revolutionary reforms for the country’s institutions and fulfill his promises to revamp the entire political system if he wants to gain the people’s confidence and trust.