The coronavirus outbreak has deepened Algeria’s legitimacy crisis. This could easily become a crisis between the state and Algerians, leading to a radical revolt. But it has also given Hirak the opportunity to think about new forms of peaceful struggle and the possibility of providing an alternative to the system.

Zine Labidine Ghebouli, Author

Coronavirus in Algeria: A country’s last warning

COVID-19 should be seen as one last warning to Algeria about its fundamental problems that must quickly be addressed to avoid the collapse of not only the system, but also the state as a political, popular and legitimate entity.

Although Algeria now has an official new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, inaugurated following unpopular elections in December, Hirak protesters had refused to go home without a radical and peaceful change in the country’s system.

Oil and COVID-19

Amidst this political upheaval, Algeria’s economic prospects have added another layer to the country’s already complex challenges. Algeria has a rentier economy, so the recent fall in oil prices has constituted another threat to the economic system.

With the government’s foreign-exchange reserves dropping from $193.6bn in 2014 to $62bn in February 2020, Algeria finds itself facing another significant risk during a vulnerable time and in a very destabilised geopolitical context.

The New Year brought yet another unpleasant surprise to Algeria with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the challenges it carries as a pandemic.

This health crisis is not only an issue for the Algerian health sector, but more importantly for a delegitimised political system, a leaderless protest movement and the country’s future.