Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision not to seek a fifth term in office and postpone the presidential election will trigger a fight for power among the country’s political elite, an expert with Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Maria Makhmutova, told TASS on Wednesday.
“The situation is difficult and complicated. The question is what will satisfy the people at the moment, whether a new leader, the incumbent president’s successor, will emerge and whether he will be able to lead the country,” the expert said.
“The election has been indefinitely postponed not only at the request of the ruling elite, but at the opposition’s request as well, given the uncertainty about Bouteflika’s successor,” she added. “It is useless to nominate the president’s brother. Voters will not view him as a legitimate leader because he was involved in corruption schemes and is considered to be a secret driving force behind Algeria’s policies,” Makhmutova noted.
According to her, “the fight for power will involve members of the country’s political elite, including businessmen, politicians and the military.”
“Everyone understands perfectly well that Bouteflika is legally incompetent, there are videos proving that,” she stressed. “He has become a victim and the political elite is taking advantage of it,” she said.
The expert also pointed out that “mass protests against Bouteflika’s fifth term in office, taking place in big cities, and the Algerian opposition’s weakness” were raising tensions further. “The Algerian opposition is totally fragmented, it managed to put forward some demands only amid mass protests. It particularly demands that the election be postponed and public security be ensured,” Makhmutova emphasized.
The expert also cited some Western analysts who believe that even large-scale protests are unlikely to shake the regime. “The reason is that in 2018, Algerian Deputy Defense Minister, Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gaid Salah carried out a purge campaign so the political system is unlikely to break down now,” Makhmutova concluded.
Situation in Algeria
Bouteflika, 82, has been ruling Algeria since 1999. In early February, the country’s ruling National Liberation Front nominated him to run the April 18 presidential election. The second member of the pro-presidential alliance, the Democratic National Rally party, supported the decision. The initiative triggered mass protests in the country. The poor health condition of Bouteflika is one of the reasons behind the protests.
On March 3, Bouteflika’s official statement was released, in which he said that if elected, he would call an early presidential election, refraining from taking part in it. He also pledged to arrange a nation-wide referendum to adopt a new constitution.
However, the leading opposition parties and movements rejected the president’s initiative.
On March 11, Bouteflika withdrew his bid for a fifth term in office and postponed the election. According to him, a new date will be determined at a nation-wide conference set to take place once a new cabinet is formed.