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Bouteflika’s Ousting Reminiscent of Mubarak

Bouteflika’s Ousting Reminiscent of Mubarak

Friday, 5 April, 2019 - 07:00
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

Before his resignation in 2011, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he was not seeking to extend his presidential mandate, but would still remain in power for more than six months. Similarly, the resigning Algerian President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika also said he was not planning on running for a fifth term.

I would not dismiss the possibility that both presidents were sincerely considering leaving office before the last hour. The problem, however, is no one knows the meaning of the “right time” for leaving. In the Arab world, it is much harder to exit such an arena than enter it.

In both situations, the families of Mubarak and Bouteflika took the blame of planning to pass power on to relatives — the sons in Mubarak’s case and the brothers in Bouteflika’s case. This has provoked massive street protests in Algeria and led to the army’s intervention due to fears over national security and order. Thus, both terms ended in a very tragic way unworthy of both presidents.

We are not quite sure if these accounts are true, but both former presidents were initially planning on running in the upcoming elections, despite their poor health. The intervention of family members was common knowledge, and the presidential terms in both cases were extended to more than what was acceptable in republics.

Well, would these ignominious changes have happened had Mubarak and Bouteflika declared their wish not to extend their terms? This is what I and many others believe, along with the possibility that a long term, accompanied by old age, is known historically to end either with deposition or death.

Habib Bourguiba, the historical leader of Tunisia, ruled for 30 years, but his power began to be questioned in the last days of his presidential term. His pictures were even thought by the public to have been modified in order to make him appear in good shape. Eventually, his rule came to an end at the hands of his hand-picked prime minister Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who ousted him and held him under house arrest for 13 years until his death. However, Ben Ali would later commit the same mistake; ruling for 20 consecutive years until, finally, being ousted by protesters.

On the other hand, we cannot underestimate the dangers of voluntary exits in the third world; where the relatives and entourage of the president may end up paying the price of conflicts and reprisals.

Indeed, we can see that Bouteflika is a political personality close to the hearts of most Algerians, as he took over the presidency of the country during a critical period, and led it from violence and bloodshed to peace. He could have ended his 20-year rule as a national hero — an icon for the present and a role model for the future generations — but, as soon as he announced his wish to run for a fifth term, citizens took to the streets to protest his decision.

Keeping in mind that running for a fourth term in 2014 was also widely criticized; the situation, unfortunately, reached the point where Bouteflika had to be ousted in his wheelchair, semi-helpless. It was probably necessary to save the country from his relatives’ behind-the-scenes “rule,” and the almost certain bloody conflict that would have followed.

It is no use crying over spilled milk. All that Algerians can do now is look forward to a better future since the change has — at least — occurred without bloodshed, chaos or bitter conflicts.

It is hoped that the rest of the transition phase will also run smoothly, in an atmosphere of unanimity, so the country will enter a new era.

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