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from Global News Journal:
Reuters has interviewed Benjamin Stora, Professor of Maghreb history at Paris IX University and one of the world's leading authorities on Algeria. Stora predicts a hollow victory for Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April's presidential election and says it will take a new generation of leaders to bring change to a country where social problems are profound and there is 70 percent unemployment among young adults (according to official figures).
Below is a partial text of the interview.
Q - What is the significance of Algeria changing its constitution to allow Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a third term?
A - Algeria is an Arab-Muslim country with a strong revolutionary tradition marked by abrupt changes, reversals, overthrows and coups. It's true there has never been a long continuity at presidential level. Presidents had been imprisoned (Ben Bella), or died (Boumediene), or been deposed (Chadli) or assassinated (Boudiaf), or given up politics (Zeroual). This is the first time we see this sort of continuity at the state level.
This is disorientating for many Algerians and has provoked a torrent of commentary in Algeria about a Tunisian-style continuity. The widespread suspicion is that the current president wants to be president-for-life. This comes not just from his political opponents but also from intellectuals inside Algeria and in exile and from journalists. Algerians reject this notion as counter to their revolutionary tradition.
Q - But how much power does Bouteflika really have? For all the past change of leaders, haven't the same people kept power?
A - In Algeria, there is this very strong feeling that things happen behind the scenes, that the people who are at the front of the stage aren't really those who hold power. This feeling has been particularly strong since Boudiaf was assassinated. But it's not entirely true in the case of
Bouteflika. Of course, there are still decision-makers in the security services but Bouteflika has imposed his authority in particular on the top ranks of the army. He is surrounded by security services and a faction of the army, and a lot of new business people who have gotten rich very quickly. Some of these new rich are former Islamists. Even some former FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) officials have become wealthy. That was one of the results of Bouteflika's national reconciliation.