Dubai - Abdul Aziz Bouteflika, president of Algeria for 20 years, and part of the political scene for almost six decades, is no longer in power.
But the thousands of protesters who brought about his downfall are not going home yet. They are seeking sweeping change to the country’s political system and demanding an end to the rule of ‘le pouvoir’ – the powers that be.
“The people see the end of Bouteflika’s [presidency] as a victory, a tangible achievement. But they don’t want to stop here,” Dr Dalia Ghanem Yazbeck, Resident Scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, told Gulf News. “The situation was different four to five weeks ago [when they would have settled for this]. But people’s demands have changed. They are saying no to Bouteflika, no to the political clans, and also no to [army chief of staff Ahmad] Gaid Salah.”
Many Algerians have never known any president other than Bouteflika. Indeed, there are in existence several black and white images of the consummate politician with long-gone foreign dignitaries.
An Algeria without Bouteflika is a novelty to most Algerians but discontent, particularly among the young, turned to anger after he announced in February he would seek a fifth term. Ghanem said protesters are already organising and want a new system in power.
But she warned the ruling system is “complex and opaque and the deep state is likely to remain for a long time. The best Salah can do is to leave, and be remembered as the person who played a historic role in Algeria’s transition.”
She also said it would be a bad decision to hold elections within 90 days as that would only leave the choice of picking someone from “the system”.