Tunisian virus spreads to Algeria

Hundreds of protesters battled riot police in Algiers Jan. 22—many waving Tunisian flags in a reference to the protest movement that brought down the president of the neighboring country last week. The opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy, which called the protest, draped the Tunisian flag next to the Algerian flag over a balcony at the party headquarters. Protesters chanted “Boutef out!”—a reference to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who has ruled since 1999. Now in his second term of office, Bouteflika has proposed a constitutional amendment that would broaden his powers and allow him to run for office indefinitely. (Albuquerque Express, Jan. 23; BBC News, Jan, 22; Magharebia, Jan. 21)

The renewed protests come a week after US President Barack Obama‘s counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan visited Algeria to discuss security matters with top officials. “The United States appreciates Algeria’s counter-terrorism position,” Brennan said after meeting with Bouteflika, adding that Obama is “keen on relations with Algeria”. (Magharebia, Jan. 21)

In Tunisia, protests continued despite the fall of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Thousands rallied in Tunis Jan. 22, calling on the government, still made up of Ben Ali’s longtime followers, to step down. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi insisted he would resign only after the first democratic vote since independence has been held. But in a sign that the regime is losing control, demonstrators in Tunis were actually joined by hundreds of police, who apparently defected to the protesters rather than follow orders for repression. (SMH from AP, AFP, Jan. 24)

See our last posts on the Maghreb and the Tunisian virus.

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