The Debate – Revolution on hold? Algeria’s pro-democracy movement seeks second wind

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Can Algeria reform? Thousands turn out for the second anniversary of its biggest protest movement in decades, but it’s lost its momentum: first with Covid-19, then with a military-backed regime that critics say has stalled for time. What to make of last week’s freeing of political prisoners and dissolution of parliament?

How far can a leaderless movement go in 2021? While many parts of the Arab world reflect on the tenth anniversary of the Arab Spring, Algeria is marking the second anniversary of the Hirak: the biggest pro-democracy protests in decades in a North African nation that since independence from France has almost only known military-backed governments.

The Hirak forced out ailing longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but the generals never went away. Two years on, they still control power and access to oil and gas resources while a mix of steady repression and Covid-19 have got the better of street protests.

We ask about last week’s freeing of political prisoners, a fresh promise of reform and the dissolution of parliament. Is it really all over for the Hirak? Like in Egypt and Sudan, the military still has the might, but what about the credibility? What’s the path to reform?

Produced by Freddie Gower, Maya-Anaïs Yataghène and Léopoldine Iribarren.