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Has the Arab Spring Just Arrived in Algeria?

By Randa Darwish

Tens of thousands of Algerians have been taking to streets in different cities across the country protesting the 81-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to run for a fifth term.

The president, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public during the past five years after he had a stroke in 2013, has announced last week his intention to run for the fifth term and sparked endless waves of anger and frustration among Algerians.

It led them to streets to demand his resignation with banners reading "No Fifth Term" and "I am Algerian and I am against it". Algerian activists, public figures in addition to the opposition party supported the protests and denounced his announcement to run for elections.

C ampaigns "Let Him Rest", "aaU* aaaaU acU[macron]U[umlaut] U*aaUU*aaUU[umlaut]" [No for the fifth term] and "#non_au_5eme_mandat" were launched on social media where Algerians supported the protests and urged the president to resign questioning his abilities to rule the country especially as he has been suffering health issues for the past years.

Bouteflika probably thought he had survived the 2011 wave of Arab Spring protests, after Tunisia and Libya ousted their long-ruling leaders that year.

Amid poor coverage from local media outlets in Algeria, Algerians went to the internet to share photos and videos from protests which appear to be rapidly increasing until Bouteflika leaves or resigns.

Some of the government opponents believe that Algeria has been ruled from behind the scenes by Bouteflika's supervisors for the past years.

In response, Army Chief of Staff and Deputy Defense Minister, Ahmed Gaid Salah went to media to warn that the ongoing protests may turn into violence. A few hours later, Algerian activists said the Algerian military reportedly demanded taking videos of Ahmed Gaid Salah down.

Translation: "The Algerian army asked all Algerian media outlets to take down the video in which Army Chief of Staff, Ahmed Gaid Salah appear talking about the anti-Bouteflika protests."

Chanting slogans protesting against the president and his brother Said, whom opponents suspect has been running the country from behind the scenes, they demanded Bouteflika withdraw his candidacy for the top job.

In his first statement since the protests broke out, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said Algerians would have the final say on who their next president would be.

In 2011 and at the same time when protests were sparking around the Middle East, an unprecedented wave of simultaneous protests, riots, and self-immolations were sparked in Algeria after a sudden rise in staple food prices. However, it started to decline after the government lowered food prices and lifted the state of emergency.

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Geographic Code:6ALGE
Date:Feb 27, 2019
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