KT edit: Algeria enters new era with Bouteflika's exit
Caretaker President Abdelkader Bensalah is a Bouteflika loyalist, so is Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's exit is a victory for the people of Algeria. Their protests were peaceful, they wanted change, they didn't flinch from their goal to put an end to the political status quo that kept them out of a role in governance. And they got what they wanted after weeks of demonstrations. But this is just the beginning of a long process that will rewrite the country's history.
The ailing president's inner circle led by his brother Said tried to stave off the inevitable but were forced to give up after the powerful military decided to withdraw support to their president of 20 years. Bouteflika hasn't been seen in public since 2013 after suffering a stroke but that didn't prevent him from contesting and winning elections that were rigged in his favour. Algerians have longed for change all these years and that change is here. We hope that this change translates into real democracy and good governance that takes into consideration the aspirations of the masses, particularly the youth who have been at the forefront of the recent protests.
Uncertainty however dogs this transition. The former president's acolytes still control the establishment. Caretaker President Abdelkader Bensalah is a Bouteflika loyalist, so is Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui. Bensalah has 90 days to call fresh elections and he could well jump into the race. The system of governance bears the ousted president's stamp and if this structure holds, protests could continue and celebrations be short-lived. Dismantling the Deep State would be the harder part.
In this scenario, it would be interesting to see which way the powerful military would swing. They have been making the right noises so far but the final outcome is anybody's guess. The Deep State includes the political elite, business leaders and military officials known as le pouvior who have wielded covert control over the country's affairs since the National Liberation Front came to power after independence from France in 1962. An immediate purge of the 'old guard' is therefore remote since the rich and powerful have much to lose. Expect the military to make the right noises but adopt a wait-and-watch approach. The Arab Spring protests are still fresh on everyone's mind. Algeria's stability is in the interest of the Middle East. Real democracy should be introduced in phases but not by inviting chaos.