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The Resilience of the Arab World’s Pouvoir

Algeria and Sudan, neither of which was swept up in the turmoil of the 2011 Arab Spring, are now trying their luck at challenging the often-surreptitious powers that be – what Algerian demonstrators back in 1988 dubbed le pouvoir. Will Arab democracy movements fare any better than they did eight years ago?

TEL AVIV – Eight years after the Arab Spring, dreams of democracy in the Arab world have been dashed by the harsh reality of autocracy, corruption, and military rule. Yet Algeria and Sudan, neither of which was swept up in the 2011 turmoil, are now trying their luck at challenging the often-surreptitious powers that be – what Algerian demonstrators back in 1988 dubbed le pouvoir. Will Arab democracy movements fare any better this time?

In Algeria, the government’s plans to reduce its robust subsidy program – a response to years of declining hydrocarbon revenues – triggered protests so potent that they drove the military to pressure President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign last month, after 20 years in power (six of which were spent incapacitated after a stroke). But this does not mean a fresh start for the country.

To be sure, following Bouteflika’s resignation, five of Algeria’s leading oligarchs were arrested, and the CEO of the state energy company was dismissed. This was followed by more high-profile arrests, including of Said Bouteflika, the ousted president’s brother and Algeria’s de facto leader, as well as former intelligence chiefs General Bachir Athmane Tartag and General Mohamed Mediène (better known as Toufik).

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