Algerians took to the streets in February 2019 to protest the re-election bid of longtime authoritarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Those protests—which came to be known as the Hirak movement and resulted in Bouteflika’s resignation in April of that year—evolved quickly to calls for a fundamental overhaul of the country’s political system. Few real changes have been made since. This Sunday, Algeria will hold a referendum on constitutional amendments to ostensibly bolster the country’s democracy. But, the Hirak says the constitutional changes do not go far enough. USIP’S Tom Hill looks at why the constitutional amendments have stirred tension with the opposition, the movement’s struggles to coalesce behind specific demands, and the role of Algeria’s military and floundering economy in the transition.
Last year, Algerians massed in peaceful protests against the authoritarian, 20-year presidency of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, prompting the military to force his resignation. The demonstrations have brought millions to the streets, demanding greater transparency in government and an end to pervasive corruption within the shadowy mix of military, business, and political elites who dominate the country. While the popular movement has forced once-unthinkable resignations and criminal investigations of powerful figures, its push for more a fundamental overhaul is stalled. The movement, called the Hirak, can continue its pattern of twice-weekly demonstrations, hoping for more government concessions. Or it can adapt its strategy to move beyond the current stalemate. Either approach could risk greater conflict.
It’s been two months since longtime Algerian dictator Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned following weeks of mass protests. But, Algeria’s protest movement has continued to maintain pressure on the army, which is overseeing a 90-day transitional period. Protesters have even recently called for the resignations of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who were appointed by Bouteflika days before his resignations. With elections scheduled for July 4, what’s next for Algeria? USIP’s Thomas Hill looks at what the protesters want, if an election can satisfy their demands, and the regional implications of Algeria’s continued unrest.