Sudan has been witnessing ongoing protests across the country for the past several weeks, and they show no sign of abating. On the contrary, their intensity is growing. Meanwhile, Algeria is preparing for a presidential election in which the main candidate is the incumbent, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is basically competing against himself. There is no one posing a real challenge to his position, despite the fact that he is not actually performing the role of a president due to his infirmity, He remains President of the Republic and the only serious candidate. Like Bouteflika, Algerian politics is also moribund.
The situation is different in Sudan; the country is on the verge of catching fire under the feet of President Omar Al-Bashir, while he tries to contain the crisis and stop the protests. The reasons for the popular discontent in Sudan are on the surface, while in Algeria, similar reasons are buried in the collective subconscious and the time has not yet come for them to explode into the public domain. This is not the only difference.
The political and economic structure in the two countries is different enough to consume more resources in Algeria. Sudan, meanwhile, suffers from economic decline and social disintegration, the result of decades of marginalisation and demographic discrimination.
Algeria has a history of government and militia violence, which prevailed during the 1920s and continued to rear its ugly head every few years. This left an impression on the people, making the Algerians, who are known to be intense by nature, one of the most calm Arab nations and submissive to the status quo. It is perhaps for that reason that Algeria was not affected by the 21011/12 wave of Arab Spring revolutions. The Algerians were neither enthusiastic about protests nor all that keen on attempts to change the government, especially after sparsely-attended marches were met with fierce violence by the security forces that thwarted them in their infancy. The Sudanese people did not join the Arab Spring in those early days, as it exhausted the opposition and the desire to improve the domestic situation in the country’s own conflicts, especially in Darfur and Port Sudan.
However, the minor revival of the Arab Spring in the first few weeks of this year is affecting both Algeria and Sudan. Nobody expects a revolution or the fall of the regimes, because both countries are under a very tight security regime propping up fragile presidents, one physically and the other politically. In Sudan, Al-Bashir is relying on the state institutions and their hard power to guarantee his continued control. He is facing the escalating protests by imposing more security measures, declaring a state of emergency and changing the government by appointing a defence minister in a dual role as deputy prime minister. The Sudanese President has also ended the constitutional amendments issue, which would have allowed him to continue to rule for many more years.
Meanwhile, Algeria is going in the opposite direction. The military establishment is using Bouteflika as a political cover to control and govern in his name, while the man is completely absent from the equation. After the opposition failed to present an alternative candidate or even object to Bouteflika’s continued rule, a new youth movement has called for massive protests next Friday against the President’s candidacy in the election. This may lead to other candidates being proposed to compete against him.
It is too early to predict the consequences of the situation in Sudan and Algeria. Nevertheless, it seems that the Arab Spring is on its way to countries which thought that they were immune.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 25 February 2019
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.