Algeria’s Partial Victory: Bouteflika ‘Diplomatically’ Continues Reign

Last updated on March 18th, 2019

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has withdrawn his candidacy from Algeria’s general elections, surprising protesters in the North African country with an unexpected victory. Seldom did any Arab Spring movement in the Middle East see such a victorious aftermath. However, what the protesting nations have also failed to witness is the diplomacy experienced in the case of Algeria, a country of 41 million.

“There will be no fifth term,” announced the 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in one of his statements. Bouteflika, who is currently serving his 20th year term in power disappeared from public eye after the 2013 stroke.

Though mounting pressure did contribute to Bouteflika withdrawal, postponed elections also allow him to continue holding on to his power for a little longer. Thus, the fate of Algeria still hangs by the thread with doubt equally looming over the future of Algerians as well as investors. Revenue generated by oil and gas sector contribute to at least 95% of Algeria’s export profits. And the protests are expected to disturb the operations in the respective sector, as per MENA director, Anthony Skinner of Verisk Maplecroft.

Late February, the streets of Algeria saw protests breaking out, after it maintained silence for years over the ongoing Arab Spring protests in neighboring countries. The 3rd largest oil producer of Africa broke its silence right before Algeria’s general elections, when the president announced his 5th term.

Risk consultancy, Verisk Maplecroft claims that the current dynamics in Algeria could affect NOC’s employees. And if significant amount of concession is not provided, a flood of disappointment could hit joint venture operations with IOCs (the international oil companies).

Considering the situation at hand, the president’s agreement to the protesters’ wish appears to be only a diplomatic move that promises no reforms, new elections or change in policy, growing IOC’s oil and gas investment opportunities.

Jason Tuvey, senior economist at Capital Economics said, “Wide-ranging reforms would still be needed to significantly improve Algeria’s long-run prospects”. While he also cautioned that bringing in any kind of reform also involves adversely affecting the interests of those in power. “Efforts to improve the business environment and clamp down on corruption would need to be front and center of any reform package.” It remains to be seen what does future hold for the Algerian economy and people.

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