Libyan President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation marks a significant victory for the Algerian protest movement. Indeed, it has now achieved its initial goal, but the movement’s confidence and ambitions have grown over recent weeks – and for many Algerians, if not most, there is still a lot more to achieve. The statements and actions of the People’s National Army (ANP) and its chief of staff, Ahmed Gaid Salah, demonstrate that they view themselves as the guarantors of a transition process that would take place within the limits of the current constitution.
Gaid Salah has been chief of staff since 2004, and vice-minister of defense since 2013; he had been a close ally of the president. He hoped that by resorting to Article 102, he and the ANP could position themselves as an ally of the people. He sought to justify the military’s intervention in constitutional terms, thus in the week before Bouteflika’s resignation, the military tried to paint itself as a neutral actor that could act as guarantor for a transition process within the existing constitution.
According to the current constitution, Bouteflika’s departure triggers Article 102 and a new presidential election should now take place within 90 days. Abdelkader Bensalah, the president of the Council, Algeria’s upper house and a Bouteflika-era appointee, would serve as an interim president. The election would be overseen by the Constitutional Council led by Tayeb Belaiz, a Bouteflika appointment put in place on 10 February, just before the beginning of recent events.
Furthermore, Bouteflika announced a new government led by former interior minister Noureddine Bedoui. However, a large part of the protest movement will not be satisfied simply with a change of president as long as the figures like Bensalah, Belaiz, Bedoui, and indeed Gaid Salah are leading the transition process. Some protestors argue that the constitution is no longer valid as it is a product of this system and has already been nullified by the fact that the president and institutions of power contravened it repeatedly.
Informal gatherings have been springing up in universities, public parks, offices of civil society organizations, and indeed online. Different roadmaps charting ways forward are already emerging from political parties, from civil society, and from youth collectives. All are searching for ways to make a transition to a new system. New faces are beginning to emerge from the universities and from youth collectives. This is essential, as, unless young people select representatives, it may be difficult to ensure that the leaders of tomorrow are different from those that came before.
The newfound confidence of the protest movement – and its will to go beyond its initial demands and halt the controlled transition the army is proposing – represent a chance to force a real break with the crony governance of the past. However, the mechanism for achieving a real transition still remains unclear.
‚Beyond Bouteflika: Algeria Protests Demand Whole System ‚Clear Out‘‘ – Commentary by Chloe Teevan – European Council on Foreign Relations / ECFR.