Socialist Worker

‘We need to remove the whole regime’ say Algerian protesters as president goes

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2648

On the streets in Bilda in March

On the streets in Bilda in March (Pic: Fethi Hamlati/Wikipedia)


Mass protests and strikes have forced out Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Bouteflika, who has been in office for 20 years, announced his resignation on Tuesday night. A huge movement from below had made ruling class support for him untenable.

Now the people at the top of Algerian society are casting around for a replacement for Bouteflika, one they hope will choke off the fightback by the mass of ordinary Algerians.

Abdelkader Bensalah, leader of the upper house of the Algerian parliament, is set to take control until elections that are scheduled for three months from now. But there is no guarantee these will go ahead, and the military is waiting in the wings.

Bouteflika consolidated his grip on power after coming to office in 1999 by winning a battle to marginalise the military’s influence within the state. 

He was able to keep a lid on simmering class antagonisms by using proceeds from oil and gas revenue to introduce limited social reforms and subsidies. But this was at a time when international oil prices were on the rise. That has changed.

There is a danger that the movement is limited to opposing just Bouteflika’s inner circle, similar figures to him, or the corruption he represented. Those must go, but so must the rule by the rich.

Protester Selmaoui Seddik told the Reuters news agency, "God willing, we will have a 100 percent democratic transition, this is very important. We need to remove the whole previous regime and that is the hardest thing."

Limiting the movement’s demands to simply new elections will give the ruling class time to consolidate and put forward new pro-business candidates. It would mean no change for the millions of Algerians who are demanding real change.

Independent

Whatever the machinations at the top, the movement from below must continue and remain independent of forces seeking to limit it.

The experiences of Egypt is too important to ignore.

The dictator Hosni Mubarak was removed by the mass strikes and protests in 2011, but the change did not go as deep or as far as was needed. Eventually the military took over and imposed a new brutal regime.

Many of the protesters who took to the streets of the capital Algiers and elsewhere on Tuesday night argued to keep fighting.

"We must continue the popular movement in order to meet all of the Algerian people’s the demands," said protester Selim Sarar."We want the transitional period to be guided by the people, not the current government. If the current system shapes it, it will be like the movement never happened. The movement must go on."

Said bin Toubal agreed, saying, "It is today that we started kicking out this gang. There must be free justice to hold them accountable.

“The people of Algeria are one hand, the people are like solid pillars, we must not be divided”.

Weekly Friday protests have pulled the largest numbers onto the streets, alongside striking workers. If similar numbers come out this Friday to oppose the regime that is beginning to emerge from Bouteflika’s shadow it will be hugely significant.

Algerian workers have flexed their muscles and swept a dictator from power. More struggles are to come, but they have the potential power to deal with these as well.


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