Algerians learned a lot from the Egyptian lesson

Published 15.04.2019 00:14

For the seventh Friday in a row, hundreds of thousands of Algerians have taken to the streets to call not only for the removal of the regime's figures but also for real change in the country's political system leading to the establishment of a "second republic." The calls for a new political system came about because Algerian governments have had mostly military and intelligence backgrounds since assuming power after independence in 1962.

Algerian popular protests have continued despite the recent resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, which came following weeks-long demonstrations that erupted against his decision to run for a fifth term. For the first time ever, Algeria saw protests filling the capital Algiers along with several provinces and cities in the country.

At the time, the main demands of the protesters were met by Bouteflika, mostly his retreat from a fifth term and resignation. However, the Algerian people have shown unprecedented determination to continue the protests until larger demands are met.

The decision to remain in the street indicates that the Algerian people have learned the lesson of the 2011 wave of the Arab Spring, especially from the Egyptian case, which had many similarities with the Algerian one.

The first lesson Algerians learned was that toppling the president doesn't mean that the entire regime is gone. In most Arab countries, the president is a mere front for a well-rooted deep state with a large network of mutual interests bringing politicians together with businessmen. Following the removal of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian activists and political parties hastened to reach a deal with the Egyptian military that enabled the army to lead the post-Mubarak transitional era.

Algerian people nowadays chant slogans targeting not only Bouteflika and his corrupt family, but also all the pillars of his regime, most specifically, the men of the intelligence service and the corrupt tycoons.

The second lesson Algerians learned is that they shouldn't allow the army to solely control their fate. While Egyptians, following the 21-day uprising, chanted, "The Army and the people are one hand," Algerians were seen raising banners calling on the Algerian army not to intervene in political life. Many Algerian political figures, like Ali Bin Flis, Bilhasal Hakim and Abdulraziq Maqri, have called on the Algerian army to protect the democratic transition in the country and not be the major part of it.

In the Egyptian case, the army made sensitive decisions without consulting revolutionary figures. The army appointed the first government that followed the uprising in addition to announcing a referendum on the constitution. The Egyptian model made Algerians stick to an integrated road map for the post-Boueflika period with the Algerian army being part of that map but not drawing the map alone.

With regard to the third lesson, it has something to do with the role of the international community, most specifically, the biggest Western countries. Algerians have been very cautious of statements from Washington, London and Paris concerning their protests. Since these states pretend to back the "democratic transition" in the country, the Egyptian experience revealed that they consider nothing but their own short-term interests, which according to them, could be attained by allying with dictators at the expense of the people. For years, Washington, London and Paris haven't said a word about the jailing of Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically elected president in Egypt.

The last lesson Algerians learned was not to trust the Arab monarchies, mostly the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, the UAE had been embracing a destabilizing policy to contain peoples' demands and undermine any pro-change movement in the region. Algerian activists were circulating photos for protesters carrying banners describing the role of the UAE as "destructive" and "conspiratorial."

For the eighth week, Algerians and the army, together, have proven that they acted responsibly during the protests. The army abstained from shedding a drop of blood of the protesters and was met by fully peaceful and civilized protests. However, the army's role has yet to be tested, as the most difficult exam for the army generals will be in the transitional period.

* Ph.D. student at Yıldırım Beyazıt University's Department of International Relations

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