Twelves years after its civil war, Algeria remains a powder keg. Recent police strikes and small-scale riots reveal the tensions simmering in the country, the Carnegie Endowment’s Abdallah Brahmi reports. The policemen’s demand for security-sector reform are also being picked up by other workers:
Although these protests were small and have diminished to some extent, the anger has spread to other security sector workers, especially the firefighters, who like the police are overseen by the pro-Bouteflika Ministry of Interior. Customs officials, some military units, and even the staffers for the Constitutional Council have also joined the police protests. Their calls range from improving work conditions to political demands such as the ouster of [Director-General of National Security] General [Abdelghani] Hamel.
While these protests are “unlikely to bring about genuine change,” Brahmi warns that the governments is vulnerable and perhaps growing more so:
With an ailing president, an unclear succession plan, and a range of demographic and social pressures, police riots and protests appear to be a secondary concern to the Bouteflika government. By throwing money at the issue, it hopes to buy time to work through internal divisions and restructure before police protests resurface. But this short-sighted solution is highlighting the government’s vulnerability and its lack of legitimacy among Algerian people. Without real reform, then, the next riot will be much harder for the government to contain.
Algeria is a black box of a country, with only minimal information about the political situation ever emerging. President Bouteflika, who has ruled the country since 1999, was re-“elected” to a fourth term this past year. But the 77-year-old President is frail and unwell, and was admitted to a French hospital today for unknown reasons.The country weathered the Arab Spring intact, unlike neighboring Libya, because of the strength of its security state. But between an ailing ruler, the hunger amongst various factions to succeed him, domestic unrest, and a civil war kicking off next door, Algeria may be getting ever more combustible.