The Arab Spring’s Second Chance
Demonstrators in Algeria and Sudan want to reduce the army's political role, and seem to have learned the lessons from a decade of stymied political transitions in the region. The next few weeks will show whether they can wrestle enough control from the military to start building a more hopeful future.
NEW YORK – Mass protests in Algeria and Sudan have recently removed two aging autocrats, ending 20 and 30 years, respectively, of absolutist rule. In both countries, the insurgents are now locked in negotiations with the army, the de facto managers of a transition to a new political order. The outcome of these power struggles will help to determine whether Algeria and Sudan become more democratic and prosperous, or instead add to a decade-long chain of disappointed hopes in the region.
The demonstrators seem fully aware of the dangers of the “Egyptian trap,” whereby a general who takes charge of a supposedly interim government ends up becoming president for life. Egypt’s General-turned-President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is hoping to do precisely that by means of a constitutional amendment that could keep him in power until at least 2030.
Yielding too much power to the army would not only hurt the Algerian and Sudanese protesters’ democratic hopes. It would also raise the risk that the generals continue to consume an inordinate share of scarce public resources, while blocking urgently needed economic reforms.