Middle East, Africa

4 Arab leaders deposed by popular protests this year

2020 to see future unfold in Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, nations where protesters are determined to push genuine reforms

Mahmoud Barakat   | 29.12.2019
4 Arab leaders deposed by popular protests this year

ANKARA 

Succeeding the 2011 Arab Spring, in 2019 another wave of major protests forced a quartet of leaders in the Middle East to step down, as aspirations for change reverberate across the region. 

Protesters managed to cast aside the shadow of fear to oust leaders in Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The demonstrators remain determined to push through genuine reforms, not just cosmetic changes.

In December 2018, the Sudanese people took to the streets over the dire economy in protests that escalated into demands for major change.

On April 11, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir stepped down following months of popular demonstrations against his 30-year rule.

According to the opposition Central Committee of the Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), more than 300 protesters have been killed since the eruption of protests against al-Bashir's rule, with dozens also going missing.

A Military Transitional Council (MTC) -- formed under a pact between the council and the Declaration of Freedom and Changes Forces, an umbrella organization of opposition groups -- is now overseeing a two-year “transitional period” during which it has pledged to hold presidential elections.

On Dec. 14, Bashir was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption and illicit possession of foreign currency and was sent to a social welfare facility to spend his sentence.   

Algeria

On Feb. 16, Algerians staged mass protests shortly after the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party announced Abdelaziz Bouteflika would seek out a fifth term as president, plans withdrawn in April.

Bouteflika, 82, had ruled the North African nation since 1999. After losing military support and coming under pressure from street protests, his 20 years in power came to an end on April 2.

Persistent rallies continued in Algeria over 10 months despite the military jailing dozens of former regime officials over graft charges.

Since April, Algerians have expressed distrust in all Bouteflika’s men, including interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, and former head of the Constitutional Council Tayeb Belaiz, who resigned on April 16 following protests.

During the protests, many activists and opponents were arrested.

The military establishment lead by Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaid Saleh -- who died last week at age 79 following a heart attack -- managed to avoid a transitional stage, stuck to the Constitution, and held a presidential election on Dec. 12.

With a turnout of 40%, the polls resulted in Abdelmadjid Tebboune winning the presidency with 58.15% of the vote.

Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui submitted his resignation to Tebboune, who tasked Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum to be a caretaker premier.

Between 1984 and 1991, Tebboune served terms as the mayor of Tiaret, Adrar, and Tizi Ouzou.

Seen by many as one of the symbols of the two-decade Bouteflika regime, Tebboune pledged during his campaign to meet the demands of protesters, many of whom consider him a de facto president. 

Iraq

Since early October, Iraq has been rocked by mass protests over poor living conditions and corruption, forcing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to step down.

At least 496 people have been killed and 17,000 injured in the protests, according to Iraq's High Commission for Human Rights.

Protesters pressed for the departure and accountability of all political elites accused of corruption who have been in power since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

Following the resignation of Abdul-Mahdi, a debate has risen between political blocs over naming s new premier.

On Thursday, Iraqi lawmakers rejected the resignation of President Barham Salih, who wanted to step down due to pressure to choose Asaad al-Eidani, governor of Basra province, as new premier.

Al-Eidani, who was proposed by the parliament's majority-holder Al-Binaa Alliance, is also the third name rejected by protesters to lead the new government, as he is accused of responsibility in the killing of demonstrators in Basra.

The situation in Iraq remains unclear, and protesters are determined to have a new independent premier who does not hail from current political circles. 

Lebanon

For many years, sectarianism has shaped Lebanon, but recent protests against economic woes have brought Lebanese from different sectarian and political factions together.

Mass protests erupted in Lebanon on Oct. 17 against government plans to tax WhatsApp and other messaging services, with the demonstrations quickly addressing wider grievances.

The unrest forced Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign amid the country's worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

After Hariri bowed out on Oct. 29, parliamentary consultations resulted in Hassan Diab being named new prime minister on Dec. 19.

Yet protests followed against both Diab and Central Bank policies amid calls of officials including Hariri to end protests.

Lebanon suffers from high unemployment, slow growth, and one of the highest debt ratios in the world, with a debt burden reaching $86.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to its Finance Ministry.

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