behind the scenes
Molly Prince | Politics Reporter
Freshman Democrats in the House of Representatives are scheduled to meet former President Barack Obama on Monday during an introduction event hosted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi is gathering her caucus’s new members to “celebrate the freshman class of the 116th Congress” and meet the party’s former leader, according to an invitation obtained by Politico. The reception is invitation-only.
Obama has largely stayed out of the spotlight since he left office, though he has been working behind the scenes meeting with prospective and declared candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
Obama was instrumental in convincing former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke to launch his own bid for the presidency. Other Democrats that he has sat down with include defeated Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Speculation has been mounting that Obama’s two-term running mate former Vice President Joe Biden will be jumping into the presidential race and is expected to do so as early as April. While he has not formally declared his presidency, he has been polling as the top contender for the Democratic nomination. Biden’s age and his race are seen as a drawback by the left wing of the party, and an endorsement from Obama would boost his candidacy. (RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Sees Herself In Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Ilhan Omar)
The freshman celebratory meet-and-greet will be held at the home of Esther Coopersmith, who most notably served as representative to the United Nations under former President Jimmy Carter.
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FILE PHOTO: Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers, Algeria, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
March 22, 2019
ALGIERS (Reuters) – Hundreds of Algerians took to the streets of the capital on Friday to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit immediately and the numbers were expected to swell after Friday noon prayers.
Protesters gathered in the city center defying rain, carrying Algerian flags and pamphlets, gathering in the same spot where a wave of demonstrations erupted a month ago.
“Rain will not stop us from continuing our pressure,” said 23-year old Ahmed Khoudja.
Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term. But he has stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.
His move has failed to appease Algerians, who want veterans of the 1954-62 independence war against France who dominate the establishment to quit so a new generation of leaders can take over and begin to create jobs, fight corruption and introduce greater freedoms.
Protest numbers have grown dramatically after prayers on the three previous Fridays during the series of demonstrations that kicked off on Feb 22.
“We stay here until the whole system goes,” said Mahmoud Timar, a 37-year old teacher.
Leaders have emerged from the protest movement, offering an alternative to Bouteflika’s political roadmap to what he says will be a new Algeria. But they have not yet built up enough momentum to force him to quit or make more concessions.
The military, which wields enormous power from behind the scenes, has remained on the sidelines, and is seen as unlikely to intervene as long as the protests remain peaceful.
(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo
March 21, 2019
By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS (Reuters) – One of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s few remaining allies in the face of mass protests, business leader Ali Haddad, is facing pressure to quit as head of Algeria’s main business association, a move that would further weaken the embattled head of state.
Bouteflika’s long-time strategic partners, from members of the governing FLN party to trade unionists, have abandoned the president, peeling away layers of his ruling elite.
The 82-year-old president also relied on influential figures like Ali Haddad, who has made billions through public works projects awarded by the government and investments in the media.
He also funded Bouteflika’s election campaigns and heads the FCE, a top business association whose leaders have been long-time supporters of the president.
The forum for entrepreneurs has been hit by a series of resignations from members who have turned their backs on Bouteflika since the protests began on Feb 22.
“Voices inside the FCE exist and they have publicly called for an extraordinary General Assembly to replace Ali Haddad,” said Laid Benamor, former vice president of the organization, who resigned from it after the demonstrations began.
“He is today associated with cronyism and favors. The union must return to its original purpose, an apolitical economic space, to regain credibility.”
Haddad was not immediately available for comment.
A second businessman, Ourahmoune Nabil, described Haddad as one of the symbols of Bouteflika’s system of rule and added that he must go, echoing public sentiment.
“There won’t be a real change if Bouteflika leaves and Haddad stays,” he said.
The FCE was not immediately available for comment.
NO CLEAR SUCCESSOR
Bouteflika, 82, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term.
But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.
His move failed to placate Algerians, who want veterans of the 1954-1962 independence war against France who dominate the establishment to step aside so a new generation of leaders can create jobs, fight corruption and introduce greater freedoms.
Even if Bouteflika quits, Algerians could face a new crisis. There is no clear successor who has won the backing of the army and is younger than 70.
One option, experts say, is to create a high council of state that will set a date for general elections.
Bouteflika and his inner circle have built a multi-layered network of power over the years that includes the military — which often orchestrates politics from behind the scenes.
On Wednesday, army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah threw his weight behind protesters, saying they have expressed “noble aims”.
The ruling National Liberation Front party, known by its French acronym FLN, has also sided with the demonstrators, leaving Bouteflika more vulnerable than ever.
(Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by William Maclean)
Students use their mobile phones during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
March 20, 2019
By Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed
ALGIERS (Reuters) – An influential Algerian party that was a long-time supporter of Abdelaziz Bouteflika has criticized the ailing president for seeking to stay in power, another setback for the ruling elite in the face of mass demonstrations.
The National Rally for Democracy (RND), a member of the ruling coalition, has joined ruling party officials, unions and business tycoons who have abandoned Bouteflika in recent days, after nearly a month of street demonstrations protests.
“The candidacy of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a new term was a big mistake,” RND spokesman Seddik Chihab told El Bilad TV.
“Extra constitutional forces have seized power in the past few years and ruled state affairs outside a legal framework.”
Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term. But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.
His moves have done nothing to halt demonstrations, which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Algiers and have continued into this week.
RND leader Ahmed Ouyahia, a former prime minister who had close ties to intelligence agencies, has also switched sides. “The people’s demands should be met as soon as possible,” he told followers in a letter on Sunday.
Leaders have emerged from the protest movement, offering an alternative to Bouteflika’s political roadmap to what he says will be a new Algeria. But they have not built up enough momentum to force the president to quit or make more concessions.
The military, which wields enormous power from behind the scenes, has remained on the sidelines.
Another powerful figure, Bouteflika’s younger brother Said, has kept a low profile. The president has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, and the protesters say a shadowy circle of aides, including Said, have been ruling the country in his name.
The protests continued on Tuesday, with students, university professors and health workers rallying in Algiers calling for Bouteflika to quit.
A new group headed by activists and opposition figures told the army not to interfere.
In the first direct public message to the generals from leaders emerging from the protests, the National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people’s choice”.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff)
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator carries a national flag during protest over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to postpone elections and extend his fourth term in office, in Algiers, Algeria March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo
March 19, 2019
By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS (Reuters) – A new group headed by political leaders, opposition figures and activists called on Algeria’s powerful generals to stay out of politics as it pressed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the government to quit.
In the first direct message to the army from leaders emerging from mass protests against Bouteflika, the National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people choice”.
Generals have traditionally wielded power from behind the scenes in Algeria but have stepped in during pivotal moments.
In 1992, the army canceled elections an Islamist party was set to win, triggering a long civil war that killed an estimated 200,000 people. Soldiers have stayed in their barracks throughout the recent unrest.
In a statement titled “Platform of Change” and issued late on Monday, the organization demanded the Bouteflika should step down before the end of his term on April 28 and the government resign immediately.
Algerian authorities have always been adept at manipulating a weak and disorganised opposition.
But more than three weeks of demonstrations – which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Algiers – have emboldened well-known figures to lead the drive for reforms in the North African country.
Prominent members of the new group include lawyer and activist Mustapha Bouchachi, opposition leader Karim Tabou and former treasury minister Ali Benouari, as well as Mourad Dhina and Kamel Guemazi, who belong to an outlawed Islamist party.
Zoubida Assoul, leader of a small political party, is the only woman in the group so far.
Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since a stroke in 2013, has failed to ease anger on the streets by reversing a decision to seek a fifth term, postponing an election and planning a conference that will chart a new political future.
But he stopped short of stepping down, and effectively prolonged his fourth term.
“Bouteflika just trampled on the constitution after he decided to extend his fourth term,” said the National Coordination for Change.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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