- HASSAN MASIKY
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The security situation in Algeria keeps deteriorating creating a sense of political uncertainty around the future of the government of Prime Minister (PM) Ahmed Ouyahia and the solvability of the Presidency of Bouteflika. As of Friday afternoon, neither the Prime Minister nor the President of the Republic has made public appearances. As the Algerian leaders remain absent, rumors alluding to “internal elements” directing and encouraging the riots to push PM Ouyahia out of office in disgrace are gaining ground. Some Algerian commentators insist that the protests did not start spontaneously but have been rather planned by elements keen on controlling who will succeed the ailing Bouteflika.
Algerian commentators are suspicious of the timing of the protests since some of the price hikes that provoked the social unrest were initiated during the holly month of Ramadan, which ended in September. Adding to the flurry of speculations around the identity of the “hidden hands” driving the violence, the Algerian press is pointing the finger to food speculators, wealthy developers and family members of current politicians and high-ranking military officers who benefits from food price hikes and new housing projects.
Other Algerian observers point out to the nomination of Said Bouteflika, the brother of the President, as a chairman of a new political party as a motive for to some elements that consider this coronation as prelude to a Bouteflika II presidency.
In Morocco, the public sympathizes with the protesters but worry about the security, stability and unity of Algeria. Moroccan observers are weary about the political and security ramifications of a possible “white coup d’état” against Bouteflika. The Moroccan street feels and understands the pain and suffering of the average Algerian.
As clashes continue in Oran not far from the borders with Morocco and in Algiers, riots have been reported ,for the first time, in the city of Tizi Ouzou where police have been battling dozens of youths burning tires, destroying public property, and erecting barricades in several street. In the afternoon of Friday, scattered groups of protesters took over several neighborhoods in localities in the wilaya of Bejaia, according to witness accounts reported in the Algerian press. The police seem outnumbered and incapable of controlling the large number of crowds.
The expansion of violence to the Kabyle region is a dangerous development that could have far-reaching consequences on the stability and the unity of Algeria. In a fiery statement, Mr. Said Sad , the leader of the RCD (the main Kabyle Party), accused the government of “negligence” and “incompetence”. Mr. Sadi had warned President Bouteflika of possible social unrest if the government does not address the social demands of the average Algerian.