Algeria is bracing itself for a day of Egypt-like protests tomorrow. Are the dominos are falling in the Arab states?
No doubt spurred on by the success of their comrades in Egypt today, pro-democracy groups in Algeria are planning a day of protest in the capital city of Algiers. Algeria, an oil-rich African nation under the militaristic rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, put down a series of demonstrations in January, leaving five dead and hundreds more injured. But tomorrow, despite a ban on protests in the capital, "a hastily formed umbrella group of civil associations, independent trade unionists and small political parties has called for a national day of protest ... under the slogan 'Changing the system'."
In anticipation of the demonstrators, Bouteflika has said he'll leverage some of the nation's oil and gas reserves to lower the price of food, the skyrocketing cost of which sparked January's protests. He's also made vague pronouncements about "more democratic freedoms," but that doesn't seem to be mitigating the protesters' anger.
Although it's a tremendously wealthy country, most of the money in Algeria is consolidated in the ranks of the powerful elites. Algeria's youth unemployment is thought to be at over 35 percent, and many Algerians flee to Europe via makeshift boat annually. Still, Mansouria Mokhefi, an analyst at the French Institute of International Relations, does not think Algeria will see the successes of Egypt.
"The Algerians live under a dictatorship, but their case is different," she said. "It's a much richer country, able to redistribute those riches to relieve some of the worries, frustration and misery. Also, the army is much stronger. In Algeria, the army is all-powerful, holding the reins of power, both political and economic."