Ordinary people's anger in Algeria show no sign of dissipating (Pic: Wikimedia/Creative Commons )
Huge protests against Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika have gripped the North African country for the third consecutive week.
Protesters demanding that Bouteflika doesn’t run for a fifth consecutive election saw a change in the regime’s tactics. Bouteflika has announced he will not seek re-election—but also postponed elections.
Now it is important the protests continue against Bouteflika’s attempt to cut off people’s anger at a deeply unequal society.
Hundreds of thousands marched in the capital Algiers and other towns and cities last Friday to demand he doesn’t stand for the fifth election in a row in April.
People chanted “The people demand the downfall of the regime”—a popular slogan from the Arab Spring of 2011. And people also took up new chants, shouting, “We have woken up, so get ready.
“We want the riches of the country divided equally.”
Bouteflika has so far refused to withdraw his candidacy for the election, but his position is becoming increasingly untenable.
The Algerian regime slashed subsidies for essential goods and services following a fall in global oil prices. Along with about 30 percent youth unemployment, in a country with a third of its population under 30 years old, this is a lethal combination for the government.
Bouteflika has responded to the protests by praising their peacefulness.
But there is little chance the anger at the regime will dissipate if things do not change for ordinary Algerians.
Working class action has been central to the protests.
Teachers strikes have shut down schools, and a national teachers’ strike is set to take place on Wednesday. This coincides with a meeting of Algeria’s constitutional committee, which decides who gets to run in the election.
Strikes have also spread to other sections of the economy, with dock workers walking out. And textile workers in Sidi Khettab, Relizane, are still out after launching an indefinite strike on 27 February.
Students have also played an important role—to the extent that the regime is moving to end the university term two weeks earlier than usual.
Algeria’s former colonial ruler France is observing events keenly. French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian said it is “is very attentive to the unfolding of this major event” because of the “historical links” between the two.
Those “historical links” are a brutal occupation and a war of independence, which saw the French kill 1.5 million Algerians by its end in 1962. Now the French state hopes to look after their interests in the region.
Other forces within Algeria are hoping to exploit the protests to get rid of Bouteflika and install themselves in office.
Talaie El Hourriyet party leader Ali Benflis is hoping to maneuver himself into power. Yet as Bouteflika’s prime minister he presided over the immiseration of millions of ordinary Algerians and will not deliver change.
Strikes and protests are taking place in neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia and the Sudanese revolt continues.
The working class asserting its own independent demands is the solution.