Editor’s Note: February 28, 2019

What is happening in Algeria?

Thousands of students joined protests against Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in April elections on Wednesday, almost a week into a rare public show of discontent with his 20-year rule.

The unexpected protests are being fueled by a mix of economic stagnation and demographic pressures. The commodities slump has hit Algeria’s hydrocarbon-dependent economy hard, driving efforts to diversify, and putting pressure on the government to cut subsidies. This is exacerbating the need to provide more economic opportunities for its young population – youth unemployment is estimated at 30%.

Coupled with a stagnant and restrictive political system there is ample fuel for discontent.

But this is not about regime change.

The problem seems to be Bouteflika himself. While he is credited with restoring stability to the country following a decade of civil war in the 1990s, and modernizing the economy, the 81-year old is reaching the end of the road.

He has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, confining him to a wheelchair. Many Algerians simply do not believe he is fit to govern the country.

There is no sign that Bouteflika intends to give in to protester demands, but this is one to watch.

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