04/03/2011

In Algeria, the revolutionary process is struggling to start

While the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have pushed their leaders to leave power and while the people of Libya is ready to face the madness of Kadhafi to see him go, popular revolts in Algeria, does gather only a few protesters and seem therefore not ready to lead to the same result.

Yet sociopolitical deficiencies that affect Tunisia and Egypt are far from saving Algeria. Corruption, endemic unemployment of young people, weak purchasing power, and inequalities are present in a country where people do not otherwise benefit the oil revenues. Moreover, political and human rights are a fiction. Faced with this precarious situation, and inspired by the revolutionary movement in Tunisia, the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (NCCD) was formed to organize the protest and called for demonstration on Saturdays to put pressure on the regime for reform. But the process is barely starting. The demonstrations have only gathered a few hundred protesters in face of police mobilized in numbers.

This inability to mobilize the Algerians for change can probably be explained by several factors unique to Algerian history and specific to the nature of the movement itself. First, unlike the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, which were completely spontaneous, of popular initiative and non-politicized, in Algeria, the NCCD, which initiated the calls to demonstrate, brings together organizations and political parties, whose legitimacy is disputed. Very few young people have joined the movement. The recent split of the movement between members of civil society and those from political parties, adds to the confusion and discredit. In addition, many Algerians fear instability and chaos that could cause protests. The memory of the civil war is still very present in the minds and pushes to inertia despite a deep desire for change. Finally, the strategy adopted by the regime, by ending the state of emergency and providing support measures for young people, seems to be successful in calming the demonstrators. The regime understands that rally of Algerian youth to protest is the key to switch to a revolution. It therefore undertakes actions to appease frustration and anticipate problems that may be caused.

The Algerian way thereby deviates from Tunisian and Egyptian experiences and Abdelaziz Bouteflika does not appear for now to be the next dictator to leave the ship. But the domino effect triggered by the experiences of conquest of popular sovereignty gives hope that a dynamic of change and reform has been deeply engaged in Algeria and throughout the region.

Iman Bahri