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Protests in Algeria may help radical Islamists come to power, Russian expert says

The expert also said that the growing crisis in Algeria would call the country’s agreements with Russia into question

MOSCOW, March 4. /TASS/. Opposition protests in Algeria may help radical Islamist groups come to power in case the incumbent head of state, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, steps down, Program Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club Oleg Barabanov told TASS on Monday.

"To Bouteflika’s credit, he managed to put an end to the civil war, which was going in Algeria in the 1990s and early 2000s and involved army groups that held power and Islamist units. If he steps down now and some kind of an Arab Spring takes place in the country, similar to what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, it may lead to similar results for the Islamist political movement is still there and it will quickly gain momentum," the expert pointed out.

According to Barabanov, protest activities in Algeria are partially a response to the Yellow Vest movement in France. "The very first protests involved Algerian students and Algerian immigrants in Paris, from where the protest wave reached Algeria," he noted.

The expert also said that the growing crisis in Algeria would call the country’s agreements with Russia into question. Barabanov stressed that cooperation between the two countries had been progressing: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made a visit to Algeria in 2017, while Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the country in January 2019.

"If Algeria makes a U-turn, it is hard to say what will happen to Russian-Algerian relations. This is why it is in our interest to maintain stability in Algeria and prevent civil chaos, let alone a new civil war," the expert explained.

Bouteflika, 82, has been ruling Algeria since 1999. In early February, the country’s ruling National Liberation Front nominated him to run the April 18 presidential election. The second member of the pro-presidential alliance, the Democratic National Rally party, supported the decision. The initiative triggered mass protests in the country. The health condition of Bouteflika, who is said to be receiving medical treatment at a Swiss hospital, is one of the reasons behind the protests.