[All links forward to french articles unless stated otherwise]
Algeria is about to witness crucial presidential elections. The country's future is at stake. Election day is penciled in for April 17. Having ruled the country for 15 years, Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his intention to run once more for a 4th term. This announcement is far from being saluted and many have voiced their opposition to this political project. The protest movement is mobilizing through social networks and the web.
It all started on Facebook. On February 22, Algerians from various backgrounds gathered in front of the University of Algiers [en] in Bouzareah [en], a suburb and a district in the capital. Their slogans describe their rage and anger. Their demands are a reflection of a profound desire for change. But no sooner had they started demonstrating than the police cracked down on those protesters and arrested them. This is a video of the gathering :
A woman who took part in this event, explains why she is against a 4th term for Bouteflika:
On s'y attendait pas du tout déjà en 2008. C'était tellement gros que c'est passé. Cette fois-ci avant même sa déclaration pour briguer un 4ème mandat on veut lui dire stop ! On n'en veut pas ! L'Algérie n'est pas une monarchie. L'Algérie n'est pas une dictature. C'est un état de droit et on voudrait tous oeuvrer pour çà.
Previously in 2008, we weren't expecting it at all [Bouteflika running for a third presidential term]. It was so surprising that it went ok. But this time before he even declares his intention to run for a 4th term, we want to tell him STOP. We don't want you! Algeria is not a monarchy. Algeria is not a dictatorship. It is a state based on the rule of law and we all want to work towards that.
Amira, Idir, Leila and others were certain they will be outnumbered by the Algerian police during the protest. Yet they still gathered. But whether consciously or not, they also proved that social networks are highly monitored by the security apparatus in Algeria. They also proved that for any democratic mobilization to possibly take place in Algeria it has to channel through social platforms. When their call for protest was first initiated on Facebook [ar, fr], nobody took them seriously. But then day after day, the number of those supporting this call started growing. They are moved by one goal: Saying no to a 4th term of 77 years old Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Algerian President who has been governing the country since 1999. A president seeking to keep his hands on the reins of power while he had promised, just two years before in 2012, to pass the torch to the youth of the country.
Consequently a protest movement was organized with gatherings taking place every week in front of the Algerian universities trying to impede the reelection of Bouteflika for 5 more years.
Many other initiatives were also set up by cyber-activists. But in a spirit of the unity of the cause, these efforts were pooled under one hashtag: #DZ2014. Through this hashtag, netizens are redirected to a multitude of Facebook Pages that keep them updated on the latest: the Presidential Election scheduled for April 17 in Algeria. Pages like 1, 2, 3 win rayah ya Si, DZ Wikileaks, Envoyés Spéciaux Algériens, Antichitadz Algérie Discussion, Algérie Election Présidentielle. These pages became tools to fight the alleged fraud in the pre-electoral period.
But Facebook and Twitter are more than just news sources. Mobilization can be as successful when achieved through humor and satire. For instance, Radio Trottoirpage became really popular in that respect for its photo-montage, jibes, and mocking videos. This photo designed by Kamel Labiad, an “Algerian graphic designer and film maker living in the UK” went viral on Facebook is an example of Algerians’ dark humor:
YouTube has also been put to good use to mobilize as many anti 4th-term supporters as possible. Youtubers are demanding accountability from their leaders. Some of them are even speaking directly to Abdelaziz Bouteflika and asking him to leave. This young Algerian doesn't mince his words:
même les serviteurs du régime s'opposent à ce 4e mandat qui humilie l'Algérie. Nous aussi on doit dire non et refuser d'accorder 5 années supplémentaires à Bouteflika
Even the regime servants are opposed to this 4th term which humiliates Algeria. We as well should say no and refuse to grant Bouteflika 5 more years in power.
Citizen Groupies are filming their protests and try to raise the awareness of the public opinion. These videos have been heavily shared on social media. Their dissemination has been made more possible through the hashtag #DZ2014.