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Speculations on Algeria's next leadership Speculations on Algeria's next leadership
by Joseph Gatt
2019-05-14 07:47:18
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Traditionally Algeria designates the highest-ranking army official to lead the nation (Ben Bella, Boumediene, Chadli, Boudiaf, Zeroual) or the longest-serving political official to lead the nation (Kafi, Bouteflika). That is to avoid fights over who should lead the nation, the highest-ranking official is always designated to lead the nation.

However, this time, the highest-ranking army official is Ahmed Gaid Salah, and, by tradition, would either be designated president, or will have the privilege of designating a president. That's how tradition works. If Ahmed Gaid Salah designates a president, the president would have to be the longest-serving high-ranking official in the country, and that would mean, by order of rank and length of service, Ahmed Ouyahia or Abdelmalek Sellal.

alger0001_400_01But there are clans who want an exception to the tradition, and who fear either economic collapse or social turmoil if the highest-ranking military official or longest-serving government official is appointed to the top. After all in the Bouteflika years the army was gradually distanced from political affairs, and high-ranking politicians don't have too much of a clean reputation. Also, something unheard of in the past, Algerian military and political officials are increasingly tired of all the corruption and economic stagnation.

Indeed, there is a class of high-ranking army and political officials who want to build the kind of country where you can use hospitals, that has a decent education system, and where there are no barriers to doing business. As voices are being thrown out for a new generation of leaders to emerge, there are also several army and political officials who are suggesting that themselves or their children lead the nation.

This paradigm shift is one where a lot of Algerian officials have realized that designating the highest-ranking official simply does not work in terms of producing good leaders or good presidents. Designating the highest-ranking official often leads to authoritarian impulses, totalitarian trends, and a lack of vision for the development of the nation.

What is happening right now is that the army brought demonstrators to the streets, but gradually disowns the demonstrators, and soon demonstrators will be labeled as thugs, as were the yellow vests in France.

There are then three possibilities as for who could lead the nation. The first would be designating the longest-serving, highest-ranking political leaders, either in the form of Ouyahia or Sellal or perhaps Abdelaziz Belkhadem. Another possibility would be to designate the highest-ranking National Liberation Front party official, namely Mouad Bouchareb. The third possibility would be to appoint the second-highest ranking army official, and I'm not sure who that is.

In all likelihood the army will gradually dismiss demonstrations as being led by thugs, will gradually break down demonstrations, and will hold elections on July 4, perhaps a little bit after July 4. Algerians will have the month of Ramadan, and will then have the summer vacations, then the start of the school year during which families tend to be busy.

The government and the army have been encouraging a business as usual approach and are gradually shifting the focus from demonstrations to other business as usual affairs. State television has been showing a succession of documentaries on factories that hire workers, and on farmers plowing fields.

So in the end there was a battle at the top over who would rule the nation, and the battle is slowly easing out. All in all, Ahmed Gaid Salah is tasked with designating a successor to Bouteflika, and will, very likely, choose one of three options I mentioned above.

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