Bouteflika decision to run again stirs mixed reactions in Algiers press

An Algerian reads a newspaper at a bus station next to a banner showing the Algerian flag with a portrait of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in the capital Algiers on February 11, 2019, as the country prepares for the upcoming presidential election scheduled for April 18. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Bouteflika decision to run again stirs mixed reactions in Algiers press

  • The 81-year-old head of state on Sunday announced will run for another term in April polls

ALGIERS: Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to seek a fifth term as president despite his ailing health stirred mixed reactions on Monday in the Algerian press, with one newspaper describing it as risky as “Russian roulette” and another welcoming his pledge of reforms.
The 81-year-old head of state, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, on Sunday announced will run for another term in April polls.
He spoke of an “unwavering desire to serve” despite his health constraints and pledged to set up an “inclusive national conference” to address political and economic reforms.
“A frightening candidacy,” headlined the French-language El-Watan newspaper on its front page.
It compared Bouteflika’s determination to stay in power to a game of “Russian roulette,” running a cartoon of the ailing president as a single bullet in the chamber of a handgun.
A fifth mandate for Bouteflika “will only serve to aggravate the woes resulting from his previous mandates,” wrote El-Watan.
It said his campaign chief Abdelmalek Sellal would have to work hard “to persuade Algerians to vote for a practically bedridden man” although his duties call on him to travel and work long hours.
In contrast, Reporters, another daily, welcomed the president’s pledge to bring in “deep reforms” saying it could accommodate opposition demands for change.
The TSA news website said it was clear that Bouteflika “despite his age and his illness.. has no intention of” quitting as president despite a “thirst for change” in Algeria.
“This fifth mandate is one too many,” it said.
The French-language Liberte said Bouteflika had dangled the promise of reforms as a payoff for staying on for another five years.
Bouteflika’s widely expected announcement also had a mixed reception on the streets of Algiers.
Housewife Aicha Zaidi said she would vote for Bouteflika because “thanks to him I have decent housing for my family.”
But Hamid Bramimi, 75, said that Algeria had become “the laughing stock of the world with a president who is invisible.”


Is a spate of terror incidents in Egypt a ‘last dance’ for militants or a failure in security operations

Updated 54 min 46 sec ago
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Is a spate of terror incidents in Egypt a ‘last dance’ for militants or a failure in security operations

  • Some have speculated that the sudden spate of incidents is the militants lashing out to spoil the image that Egypt is returning to stability

CAIRO: Three terrorist attacks in the space of as many days have raised questions over whether the Egyptian security forces have brought extremist militancy in the country under control.

The attacks between Friday and Monday came after a period of relative calm. The Egyptian military has been involved in an extensive operation against terrorist groups in their stronghold in the Sinai Peninsula for more than a year. Police forces have also been carrying out operations against cells in a large number of governorates.

The first of the three incidents was a failed attempt to plant a bomb near security forces in Cairo on Friday. On Saturday, however, a massive blast killed 14 members of the military on a security mission near El-Arish in Sinai.
The third bombing on Monday could have been just as deadly. A suicide bomber blew himself up after he was chased by police in the densely populated Al-Hussein district of Cairo near Al-Azhar Mosque. In the end three officers were killed.
The attacks came after months of relative calm in an insurgency that began after the Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Mursi was removed from power in 2012.
Since then, militants have targeted the Egyptian security forces, churches, coptic Christians, tourists and ordinary Egyptians, killing hundreds.
In November 2017, gunmen carried out the deadliest terror attack in Egyptian history — killing more than 300 people at a Sufi mosque in northern Sinai.

In response, the military launched a vast operation in February last year to “eliminate terrorism in Egypt.” The operation is ongoing.

Some have speculated that the sudden spate of incidents is the militants lashing out to spoil the image that Egypt is returning to stability.

“[Terrorists] want to give Egypt a bad image to foreigners living abroad, on order to make a point. They want to abort the democratic reform process that Egypt’s been implementing in the past period,” MP Mohamed Maher Hamed told Arab News.

Author and political analyst Walid Qutb said Egypt is keen to host more important regional and international events and forums, including the African Nations football tournament, and a drop in terror-related incidents is key to this.

He said the return of terrorist operations at this time is an attempt to send a clear message that Egypt is not a safe country. What the extremists have done recently is a final dance and lost, Qutb said.
But political analyst Nabil Omar told Arab News that the elimination of terrorism requires more than just maintaining security forces.
There needs to be improved education and the spreading of correct information to improve the mentality of Egyptians, he said.
“I don’t think that the return of terrorist operations happening currently is linked to changes in politics in Egypt,” Omar said. “It has nothing to do with how well security is either. “Terrorist attacks are happening because the terrorists in question have decided to do so.”
The recent incidents in Cairo are both strange, Omar said. They targeted police forces in locations packed with civilians.
This could mean that terrorists want their attacks to be even bigger and deadlier, even if that comes at the cost of the innocent or unarmed.
“The positive thing here is that these recent terrorist attacks came after a long period of silence. During that period of time, the Egyptian military had the upper hand in relation to the terrorists – who used to be more in control before,” Omar said.
The attacks came after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi described to the Munich Security Summit this week the Egyptian experience in regards to terrorism.