Algerians eager for change but wary of new Arab Spring

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Massive protests that have gripped Algeria might resemble another Arab Spring, but those seeking democratic change are mindful of history and want to avoid more upheaval, analysts say.

The winds of freedom that are blowing over Algiers have revived memories of January 14, 2011 in Tunis, when thousands marched on the Tunisian capital and forced president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali to flee.

After a rally of solidarity with the protests in Algeria was stopped by police in Tunis, civil society groups demanded Algerians be allowed “to finally establish a democratic regime supported by the rule of law”.

But Algeria, which was barely touched by the Arab Spring in 2011, has already experienced uprisings.

“Algeria in some ways already went through its spring 15 years before everyone else,” said Tunisian political scientist Hamza Meddeb.

After bloody riots in October 1988, a new constitution opened the way for a multi-party political system.

“The experience of 1988, with a popular uprising that pushed the regime to a democratic opening leading to an Islamist victory followed by a (military) coup, echoes the Egyptian experience of 2011-2013,” said Meddeb.

The trauma of the devastating 1992-2002 civil war in Algeria that followed has helped to limit the domino effect of the Arab Spring in the country in 2011.

But now “a brick wall of fear has fallen”, said Algerian political scientist Cherif Dris.

“Algerians have thrown themselves back into the political and public spheres,” he told AFP, as students took to the streets of Algiers where protests had been banned since 2001.