Despite the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators all over Algeria for two weeks, against Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s running for a fifth term as president, his candidacy is maintained. Spokesmen for the Algerian president (as he cannot speak anymore) announced he promises not to complete his fifth term and to organise a new presidential election for which he won’t be a candidate.
This “elect me and I promise you won’t have to bear with me for very much longer” is a small concession given the size of the demonstrations in Algeria and also in Paris and Marseille. Not enough to stop the anger. Sunday night, demonstrators were again in the streets in Algiers. Behind the “no to a fifth term” there is more than protests against the regime: there is a deep social anger.
This negligible gesture of retreat from Bouteflika and his clique is only aimed at his world: his competitors for power, those who dream of taking his place, such as army generals who control the country, or direct representatives of a handful of super rich Algerian bosses who built their wealth under the protection of the State. A world periodically shaken by leaks about how corrupted it is: a non-ending series of scandals and settling of scores between political and business cliques.
Order as blackmail
Against the popular revolt, the government keeps raising the threat of chaos as in the 1990’s, to justify that the army must maintain order. The ten years of war between the army and Islamic groups had followed the social unrest of October 1988 and contributed to suppressing the revolt – at the price of 150,000 dead. Even the general secretary of the national union, UGTA, threatened the demonstrators: “Do you want to go back to the days of blood and tears and burnt houses?”
At the same time, Emmanuel Macron was very discreet, avoiding to show any kind of support to the demonstrators. He only wishes for the survival of the strong regime against Algerian workers and youths, with Bouteflika or any like leader at its head. For Macron, restoration of constitutional order – even under a dictatorship – is necessary to preserve the interests of many French investors.
A war against the poor
The 1988 social explosion that shook the regime was caused by the austerity policy imposed to Algeria not just by its social climbing leaders but also by the International Monetary Fund through economic restructuration plans. This ensured the Algerian people paid the interests on the debt of their country, for the profit of the great powers and their banks. After a few years when high oil prices allowed Bouteflika’s regime to lighten austerity, belts are being tightened again.
The crash in oil prices, due to conflicts of interests between multinationals, is causing a new crisis that hits the poorest in the population, through unemployment, particularly affecting young people (28% unemployment among workers under 25), and through inflation that reduces true wages.
Hope comes from youths
The Algerian youths is on the front line of social revolt. It represents a hope and an encouragement for all workers and youths in the world, who, from Venezuela to France and its yellow jackets, are fed up with poverty and arbitrariness.