Until last week the number one topic that Algerian engineer Mohamed Aissiou and his mates would discuss over coffee was soccer. Specifically, local star Riyad Mahrez and his English club Manchester City, ONAreports quoting Reuters.
Now it’s all about whether President Abdelaziz Bouteflika should go.
Many Algerians have for years avoided politics in public, fearing trouble from the ubiquitous security services, or having simply stopped caring as the country has been run by the same group of men since the 1954-1962 independence war with France.
Bouteflika himself has ruled since 1999 and is credited with ending a decade-long Islamist insurgency early in his rule. Many Algerians have long tolerated a political system with little space for dissent as a price to pay for peace.
But since protests erupted in the capital and some 40 other towns on Friday against ruling party plans for the 81-year old leader to stand for a fifth term, a decades-old taboo on public discussion of politics appears to have evaporated overnight.
“We watch Manchester City matches at the coffee shop then we’ll discuss the game,” Aissiou said, while sipping coffee in the “Le Circuit” cafe in downtown Algiers.