Algeria

An interesting thought on Algeria: many are citing the national memory of bloody civil war as a reason to discount the prospect of an uprising similar to those elsewhere in the region. If this is the case, does the peaceful nature of Egypt’s ongoing revolution change things?

The ingredients are there. High unemployment, rapidly increasing food prices and low levels of political freedom. As in Egypt, the country has also been subjected to 19 years of emergency law, limiting its citizens’ right to assembly and freedom of association. Despite a complete ban on demonstrations, large numbers have already taken to the streets in the capital, Algiers, calling for an end to 12 years of authoritarian rule by Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his generals.

Of course, there remain important differences between the Egypt and Algeria: whilst the former relies largely on foreign capital, the latter is an important exporter of oil and gas. Algeria has around $150bn (£93bn) in foreign currency reserves, almost no external debt, and forecasts economic growth of 4% in 2011. This means that Bouteflika’s government can afford to make concessions and, if necessary, oversee a fairer system of wealth distribution amongst those sections of society whose support he needs to remain in power. In adition, the regime will undoubtedly have drawn important lessons from Mubarak’s handling of events in Egypt  in the hope that it can avoid a similar fate.

Nevertheless, the protesters will have been emboldened by the scenes in Tahrir Square last night. The prospect of a similarly peaceful revolution will no doubt seem that bit  more attainable this morning.

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