Last week, Algeria experienced one of its historic days. More than 1 million Algerians organized a demonstration in the country's capital, asked President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign, and demanded elections be held on time. The demand that came from the general staff was even more critical for Bouteflika. The chief of general staff, who had been protecting Bouteflika for years, demanded that Article 102 of the constitution be applied. Article 102 of the Algerian constitution stipulates that a president who is unable to fulfill his duty be stripped of his authority, with the authority given to the parliament speaker for 45 days. If no election can be held within this time period, the 45-day period can be extended.
According to the latest news from Algeria, Bouteflika is preparing to resign from his position as head of state, and as per article 102 of the constitution, the parliament speaker will assume the role of president. Nobody has any doubt that a new era is in store for Algeria. The military and the government that have been running the country for years are sacrificing Bouteflika. This is the indication of a covert coup against Bouteflika with the support of the people. It could be said that Bouteflika's insistence on running as a candidate for a fifth time is one of the primary reasons that prepared the grounds for this.
There is a special significance of more than 1 million people gathering in the Algerian capital, despite sectarian, ethnic, and political differences. The people are uniting for the first time after winning the war of independence against France, and organizing a peaceful demonstration. Bouteflika's growth of Algeria's economy, ending the civil war and making the nation North Africa's most stable country no longer means anything. The people want change, and state that Bouteflika's time is up, demanding a shift to a more democratic administration.
But the real question is, do the party and military, which have been controlling Algeria for years, share the people's thoughts? In other words, do they want the regime to continue, while the change is limited to Bouteflika alone?
We should not be too optimistic about Algeria's nationalist left-wing party administration giving priority to the people's preferences. The party administration in Algeria is stronger than other North African countries. Major changes in the administration along with the leader are possible in other North African countries, but not in Algeria.
Some Algerian activists do not believe the implementation of article 102 to be sufficient. Because Article 102 does not change the regime, it only changes the head of state, yet article 7 paves the way for the administration to shift from party rule to people's rule. Article 7 takes the public as the source of administration, and offers an opportunity to eliminate the party and military obstacle that stands against the sovereignty of the people. Demonstrators want Article 7 to be implemented, and the changes to be supervised by the people.
The implementation of Article 7 would mean a new regime, a new administration, and consequently, a second republic period for Algeria. However, for now, it seems difficult for a strictly people's rule to happen.
Algeria has the example of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's former head of state, Robert Mugabe, was ousted through a coup with the support of the military and ruling party, due to Mugabe's advancing age, and his wife and close family and friends becoming involved in the administration. Yet, the people of Zimbabwe had demanded a democratic administration, growth of the economy, prevention of unemployment, and the elimination of the gap between the people and the state.
Mugabe was someone that was valued not only by the people of Zimbabwe, but by all Africans. Fighting against the white minority, Zimbabwe’s independence, and the people of Zimbabwe having a common state awareness all happened under his leadership.
However, the people now want freedom, democracy, transparent administration, and the improvement of the economy. The military and the ruling ZANU-PF administration saw this, and the military and Mugabe's assistant Emerson, nicknamed crocodile, staged a political coup and removed Mugabe from government.
As there is a similarity between Bouteflika experiencing severe paralysis, and hence being unable to fulfill his duty, and Mugabe losing his authority in the administration due to old age, there is also a similarity in terms of the military taking into account the people's demands.
Like Mugabe, Bouteflika is going to share a similar fate, and be removed from government. However, will a new era start with Bouteflika gone? In addition to it being certain that a new era will indeed start, it is doubtful whether it will be as the people organizing demonstrations on the streets want.
Algeria has two paths ahead of it. The first is for the military and party to join powers and soften the current regime, taking into account certain demands of the people. The likelihood of applying this option seems high. The second is to answer the demands of the more than 1 million demonstrators that have gathered in the capital, and ensure that Article 7 of the constitution is implemented. Additionally, to give prominence to the people's legitimacy, form a ground for dialogue in which activists from parties, unions, nongovernmental organizations are represented to establish a people's council until free elections. Though the likelihood of this happening is low, hope springs eternal.
It is obvious that a new era will begin with Bouteflika's resignation. However, we will soon see whether this era will be as the military and the party which have been ruling the country for years want, or whether the people will decide.