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Algeria

Yearbook 2019

Algeria. In January, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that presidential elections will be held in April. At that time, however, it was unclear whether Bouteflika, born in 1937 and president since 1999, would stand for another mandate. The president had appeared in public only sporadically after he was hit by stroke in 2013. In 2008-16, the rule was that the president could be re-elected an unlimited number of times, but in 2016, the constitution was revised so that a maximum of two terms of five years are allowed. However, the regime chose to make the interpretation that the restriction did not apply retroactively and that Bouteflika could therefore stand for election.

Later in January, an open letter was published in the journal Le Quotidien d'Algérie in which the senders criticized the Algerian social system. The authors of this call were not alone in their critical attitude to the regime. When it was announced in February that President Bouteflika would really be running for office in the upcoming elections, protests erupted, despite the fact that there has been a demonstration ban in the country since 2001. According to CountryAAH, Kravall police met the protesters with tear gas, and about 40 people were arrested.

The protest movement spread to other cities and in March, thousands of students demonstrated without police intervention. A few days later, over a thousand lawyers marched against the Constitutional Council in an attempt to influence this institution's decision as to whether the sitting president's candidacy was indeed legal. On this occasion, Bouteflika was in Switzerland for health reasons. When he returned to his home country, the demonstrations continued and at the universities the students went on strike. The day after, March 11, Bouteflika announced that he would not run for the upcoming presidential election and that this election would be postponed in the future.

On the last day of March, the government was reformed with Noureddine Bedoui as prime minister, but the demonstrations continued. Two days later, April 2, Abdelaziz Bouteflika submitted his resignation application to the Constitutional Council after nearly 20 years as president. In his place, the Speaker of Parliament's upper house, Abdelkader Bensalah, stepped in as interim president. Bouteflika's case gave rise to cheer among the protesters, but many demanded that Bensalah be replaced because of his connections to Bouteflika's regime. Major manifestations against the political elite continued to be held on Fridays.

In mid-April, more than 100 judges, who formed a new law organization, demonstrated that demands for the presidential election, now scheduled to be held in July, should be further postponed. The judges considered that the laws and institutions that governed the country under Bouteflika meant that the election could not be free and fair. The men of the old regime continued to fall. In April, Constitutional Council Chairman Tayeb Belaiz resigned, and in May, the president's brother, Said Bouteflika, and two chiefs of the intelligence service, were arrested for conspiring against the state. In late September, they were sentenced by a military court to 15 years in prison for planning to impose an emergency permit and dismiss Army Chief Ahmed Gaïd Salah.

In mid-June, two former prime ministers were arrested: Ahmed Ouyahia, who has been prime minister four times, most recently 2017-19, and Abdelmalek Sellal. The reason for the arrests was not made public, but the two suspects were involved in a major corruption scandal that began to spring up in the spring. Several other high-ranking people, both politicians and wealthy businessmen, were also arrested during the year.

In early June, the Constitutional Council announced that the July 4 presidential election was suspended. None of the only two candidates who submitted their candidacy was expected to be able to get together the 60,000 signatures required to stand for election. In early July, the House Speaker, Mouad Bouchared, was forced to step down following popular protests. He was replaced by an opposition parliamentarian, Slimane Chenine, a representative of a small Islamist party. Bensalah's term as interim president was extended in July. Despite protests from the opposition, it was decided that presidential elections should be held December 12. The decision was supported by influential army chief Ahmed Gaïd Salah, who demanded that elections be held before the end of the year.

Despite popular protests, presidential elections were held in December, but turnout was low, below 40%. Victory made former Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who received 58% of the vote. A few days after Tebboune was sworn in as president, Army chief Gaïd Salah passed away. In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Algeria free from malaria. The last case of the mosquito-borne disease was reported in 2013. In the 1960s, about 80,000 people became ill every year in malaria in the country.

In August, five young people perished in the crowd during a concert with rapper Soolking in Algiers. The day after, the head of Onda, a state cultural institution that arranged the concert, was fired by the prime minister. Soon after, the Minister of Culture and the National Police Chief also resigned.

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