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Another Fall In Spring…

Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, Robert Mugabe, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Dada Idi Amin, Slobodan Milosevic, Fulgencio Batista… the list is long! It is felt that recently, another person has got his name added here. The Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has resigned after weeks of massive street protests in the African country!
Preident Bouteflika – who has been in power for more than two decades (from 1999 until 2019) – announced that he would not seek a fifth term after considering the current political scenario in his country. The 82-year-old leader claimed that it would not be possible for him to carry out his duties because of his poor health condition

Abdelaziz Bouteflika

However, political experts are of the opinion that the People of Algeria have forced the autocratic leader to quit! They argue that Bouteflika made the announcement only after protesters vowed to continue piling on pressure until the government was ousted. As expected, people in Algiers celebrated the president’s move by shouting, waving the national flags and honking their car horns throughout the night. According to experts, the protesters not only celebrated the end of an era, but also the end of an entire system! “This is just a little victory – the biggest is yet to come,” said one protester. Another protester, Selmaoui Seddik, stressed: “God willing, we will have a 100% democratic transition, this is very important. We need to remove the whole previous regime and that is the hardest thing.
Bouteflika reportedly met Army Chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah hours before relinquishing power. Although a section of people believes that Bouteflika’s decision to quit would change nothing, experts express a different view. The jubilation on the streets of different Algerian cities on April 2 night made it clear that the next government would have to meet the demands of Algerian youths, who ousted an ageing and authoritarian ruler by staging weeks of protests!

Algerian protesters during a protest in Algiers against extending President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s mandate

With Algeria’s oil wealth drying up, the outgoing president seemingly had few options, other than reducing state spending on various sectors. As a result, more than a quarter of youth-force remained unemployed. As the young Algerians are well aware of the bloodshed, turmoil and increasing repression that triggered the Arab Spring in neighbouring countries, it became increasingly difficult for Bouteflika to stay in power! So, the authoritarian ruler bowed down to the “peaceful and orderly” revolution triggered by his countrymen!
Indeed, it is a great achievement for the protesters to dethrone a person who has been running things since Algeria won Independence from France in 1962. Now, they have to win another battle, as it will not be easy to turn Bouteflika’s departure into a systemic change. Acting leader Abdelkader Bensalah, the 76-year-old close to Bouteflika, may try to influence the General Elections due in 90 days. Now, it is up to the Algerian Armed Forces to ensure a ‘free and fair’ election and not to help the acting leader establish another authoritarian regime. The protesters have sent a clear message to authoritarians that they want something better, and will not settle just for stability! The next government in Algiers should understand the fact that real power is the People Power.

The World’s Longest-Serving Leaders

Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation, in a way, proves that the legacy of the Arab Spring is yet to be settled!

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