Look to Sudan

Rachid Ouaissa, head of the Centre for Near and Middle East Studies at the Department of Political Science at the University of Marburg, holds the army responsible for the standstill. The military is not ready to give up its privileges, he says. But the path that Sudan has taken could also be an option for Algeria, says Ouaissa: "A dialogue between the army and the demonstrators, sharing power during the transitional phase to give the army the opportunity to gradually withdraw from political life, then a transitional government and finally, a constitution."

Sudan's new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaks during press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, Wednesday, 21 August 2019 (photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo)
Sudan’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, is a seasoned economist who faces the daunting task of rescuing his country's moribund economy. Hamdok built a career in continental and international organisations, most recently as deputy executive secretary of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa

Just a few days ago, the opposition "Socialist Forces Front" also called on the Algerian authorities and army to seek inspiration from Sudan in efforts to overcome the current crisis in Algeria. "The Sudanese example should encourage Algerian rulers to open a serious, inclusive, transparent and unconditional dialogue for a democratic transition. Necessary steps have already been taken to ensure the success of this dialogue, such as the liberation of political prisoners," read the declaration.

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Differences with Sudan

But despite all the similarities and Sudan's inspirational potential: there are profound differences between Sudan and Algeria, says Middle East expert Ouaissa. For example, the Algerian opposition  "is much more disparate than the Sudanese. Also, the army has managed to poach a portion of the opposition." The fact that the Algerian opposition is rejecting all outside intervention is also a problem, he adds. The Sudanese breakthrough was only achieved through foreign mediation. Negotiations were supported by Ethiopia and the African Union.

Primarily, Ouaissa sees fundamental differences in the history and structure of the two nations' armies: "firstly, the Algerian army was legitimised through a revolution. Secondly, it is highly present in society."

Unlike isolated Sudan, the Algerian military also maintains ties with the West and plays a strategically relevant role in the Mediterranean region and Africa, for example in Libya and Mali, says Ouaissa.

And, he continues, it is supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf kingdoms are not exactly well-known for being cradles of democracy. For this reason, leaders there will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of the democratic experiment in Algeria. After all, Ouaissa is convinced: a successful democracy in Algeria would certainly impact upon the rest of the Arab world.

Khaled Salameh

© Deutsche Welle / Qantara.de 2019          

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

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