Algeria is preparing for a presidential election in which the main candidate is the incumbent, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. There is nobody posing a real challenge to his position. Bouteflika and Algerian politics are declining and thus this stagnant era will likely pass soon. The key question is how Algeria’s business elites will react and be part of the transition of power to Algeria’s next leader.
In turn, Sudan has been witnessing ongoing protests across the country for the past several weeks, and these protests show no sign of abating. President Omar Al-Bashir’s decision to transition the leadership to a new format while he tries to contain the crisis and stop the protests is now paramount. Al-Bashir’s announcement that he would be stepping down as the ruling party’s leader, while simultaneously declaring a state of emergency, signals the country’s different path.
It is important from a cultural point of view to understand
The political and economic structures of the two countries are different enough to consume more resources in Algeria, thereby taxing state coffers. Sudan, meanwhile, suffers from economic decline and social disintegration, plus corruption. The legacy of the Ottoman Empire in Sudan is only a recently rediscovered history. Al-Bashir has been playing his Arab and Turkic card wisely between various Arab parties, specifically on either side of the Qatar crisis
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 against the president’s candidacy in the election. This may lead to other candidates being proposed to compete against him.
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 the defense minister as the country’s first vice president. The Sudanese president has also postponed constitutional amendments that would have allowed him to rule for many more years.
Meanwhile, Russia is looking on with interest, as both Algeria and Sudan are heavily influenced by Moscow. Russia’s relationship with both countries is rooted in history and now it is increasing its presence in these two countries as a means of influencing the outcomes. To be clear, changes in Algerian and Sudanese leadership may hurt the Kremlin more than help it, and would possibly be a major reversal of Russia’s policy in North Africa
It is important to recognize that what is happening in Algeria and Sudan is not the tired and overused concept of the rise of the “Arab street,” but instead a mix of local grievances unique to each country. This needs to be recognized by observers and pundits. Those still using an