Algerians no longer want their 81-year-old leader

Despite being unable to stand, walk, talk, effectively carry out his duties as Algeria’s head of state, or even receive guest as a ceremonial President, 81-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika wants to retain his position as Algeria’s President, a position he has occupied since 1999.

During the Arab Spring, accumulated grievances expressed itself in nationwide protests. Following the ongoing challenges in Libya, which was effectively contained through a combination of coercive force and sociopolitical incentives intended to pacify immediate demands, Algerians, most of whom are under 25, have repeatedly chosen peace and stability over political reform by re-electing the president. But with the President’s ailing health and new term limits added to the country’s constitution in 2016, Algerians have lost faith in Bouteflika.

They have now taken to the streets to show their rejection of the president’s fifth term bid. The President, who is also the minister of defence, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair in 2013. The incumbent last addressed the nation more than six years ago but still contested the election in 2014, and won with a whopping 87 percent vote, even though he hardly campaigned.

The Northern African country has experienced strikes and protests in recent years. Demonstrations are also not new in Algeria, but the current rallies are the biggest since 2011.

This 2019 demonstrations, unlike the ones that happened in 2011 that removed some long-serving leaders from power, this particular one is focused on not letting Bouteflika remain in power as president. But Bouteflika is not having any of it, as demonstrated by police teargassing the tens of thousand anti-Bouteflika protesters walking through the center of Algiers within one hour of starting the protest.

In a written message to Algeria on why he should seek another term, Bouteflika said, “Of course, I no longer have the same physical strength as before, but the unshakeable will to serve the country has never left me and enables me to transcend constraints linked to health problems which can happen to anyone.”