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Algeria - GOVERNMENT
ALGERIAN POLITICAL CULTURE and government reflect the impact of the country's colonial history and its cultural identification. The legacy of the revolutionary War of Independence (1954-62) and its lingering implications are still evident in recent political events and in the evolution of political processes. A strong authoritative tendency and the supremacy of the military, both remnants of the war for liberation, have resulted in a sharply divided society in which the political elite remains highly remote from, and generally unaccountable to, the masses of its impoverished, unemployed, and dissatisfied citizens. State-supported socialism, largely fed by petroleum exports, and "depoliticization" of the masses during the 1970s replaced any real source of legitimacy for the regime and left the masses almost no form of political expression short of violent confrontation.
The consequences of this political tradition materialized in January 1992 when a conservative military coup overturned four years of significant political and economic liberalization undertaken by President Chadli Benjedid in the late 1980s. Benjedid's extensive political and economic reforms, pursued to restore political legitimacy and public confidence in the government leadership, had opened the way for political opposition. The rise of the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut--FIS) as the most significant opposition group threatened to challenge the secular orientation of the state. The coup took place only days before the second round of the first freely contested national elections, elections that were likely to usher in a new government dominated by Islamists (sometimes seen as fundamentalists). Since then, the virtual elimination of constitutional government and the resurrection of military authoritarianism have returned Algeria to the familiar situation of placing power in the hands of a small elite, nullifying almost all of the democratic freedoms and many of the free-market reforms of the preceding few years.
Algeria's bloody overthrow of colonial rule resulted in independence in 1962 and a legacy of an authoritarian political structure dominated by several competing interests. The main actors in the national revolution continued to govern the Algerian polity after independence, struggling during the immediate postindependence period and throughout postindependence Algerian history for political control. This tradition has evolved into a triangular system of government in which the army, party, and state apparatus share power but continually compete. Benjedid's reforms in the 1980s effectively eliminated the party (the National Liberation Front--Front de Libération Nationale-- FLN) from a prominent position in the political configuration while strengthening his hand as president through constitutional reforms. The military, also having suffered a reduction of authority with the political changes implemented by the 1989 constitution, appeared to have little tolerance for the liberalization visualized by Benjedid and the more liberal faction of the FLN. Resurfacing in the early 1990s to "ensure the security of the state," the military has demonstrated once again that the army remains the dominant arm of the political triangle. Recent political events are as much a reflection as a determinant of political culture in Algeria. The nation in late 1993 was under a state of emergency, its condition since the military coup in January 1992. Martial law ruled, essentially invalidating all political structures and institutions. The outcome of this period will be determined not only by the political leaders but also by civil society, political competition within the state, and by mass culture. If the Algerian state is to overcome its political crisis, it needs to resolve its myriad socioeconomic problems. If it is to successfully conquer its economic problems, it will need to become more democratic and decentralized. The current situation is potentially dangerous because of the explosive nature of the political tensions inherent in the repression of a discontented population.
Postindependence Politics and the Socialist Tradition
Algeria's current political culture is a result of the French colonial legacy, the War of Independence, the Arab and Islamic cultural traditions and the part these play in national unity and cohesion, and the integral role of the military. The consolidation of authority and the institutionalization of political structure characterized the postindependence years as the new Algerian nation struggled to overcome the instability of the revolutionary period. National integrity and national institutions were viewed as equally important as Algeria worked to consolidate its independent political structure and tradition and to overcome the administrative and economic vacuum that resulted from the departure of most Europeans who had lived in Algeria.
Emerging from more than 132 years of French colonial domination and nearly eight years of the War of Independence, Algeria was officially declared independent of France on July 3, 1962, but recognizes July 5 as its Independence Day. Exhausted from so many years of warfare and internally divided into fiercely competitive factions, the military/political leadership of the victorious FLN quickly deteriorated into incohesive groups vying for control of the new state.
The three major contenders for political predominance were the provisional government established by the FLN in 1958, the military officials, and the wilaya commands (administrative district councils established by the military in the preindependence period). The confrontation was characterized by fierce personal and ethnic loyalties as well as ideology and surfaced even before independence was officially declared. A May 1962 meeting in Tripoli of FLN leaders closed with Ahmed Ben Bella assuming control of the party and what would become the nation of Algeria under a tentative alliance with Colonel Houari Boumediene.
With the declaration of independence, Ben Bella assumed the title of national president. The first postindependence elections were held for the new National Assembly on September 20, 1962, and on September 26, the National Assembly officially elected Ben Bella premier and formally declared the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria. Ben Bella formed his government from the ranks of the military and close personal and political allies, indicating that the factional infighting was far from suppressed.
The first and most pressing task of the new government was to restore some normality to the war-torn economy and polity. The end of the colonial period, although not entirely eliminating the French presence in Algeria, had dramatically reduced it. The mass exodus of Europeans resulted in a severe shortage of highly skilled workers, technicians, educators, and property-owning entrepreneurs. The national government quickly assumed ownership of the abandoned industrial and agricultural properties and began a program of autogestion, or socialist workers' management. Workers were responsible for overseeing their own administration through a series of elected officials. A national system of directors and agencies was charged with ensuring that the workers conformed to a national development plan.
A new constitution was drafted that committed the country to a socialist path, established a strong presidential system, and protected the hegemonic role of the FLN as the single political party. Ben Bella assumed control of the FLN executive as general secretary. In September 1963, Ben Bella was elected president for a five-year term. As the government increasingly tended toward a dictatorship, factionalism within the leadership began to resurface.
At its first congress in April 1964, the FLN adopted a draft statement, the Algiers Charter. The charter outlined the structure of the state and government and committed Algeria to the autogestion program envisioned by Ben Bella. The charter also reaffirmed the significance of the Islamic tradition in Algerian political culture.
Ben Bella was never able to capture the confidence of the Algerian public or the military. He was popular among the masses more for his status as a "historic chief of the revolution" than for his leadership competency. Despite efforts to thwart the rival military faction by strengthening the leftist groups, Ben Bella was unable to overcome the political challenge of his defense minister, Colonel Houari Boumediene, whose alliance had been critical to his installation as head of government in 1962. On June 19, 1965, Algeria's first postindependence president was overthrown by Boumediene in a bloodless coup.
After the coup, all political power was transferred to Boumediene and his military-dominated Council of the Revolution. The constitution and National Assembly were suspended. Boumediene was named president and prime minister, and his associates were named to the twenty other cabinet positions. No political institution other than the FLN existed for the next ten years. The objectives of the regime were to reestablish the principles of the revolution, to remedy the abuses of personal power associated with Ben Bella, to end internal divisions, and to create an "authentic" socialist society based on a sound economy. Boumediene's support came from the military and technocratic elite who believed in his gradual reformist program. Support for the new authoritarian system was not universal, and several coups were attempted in the first few years of Boumediene's regime. By the early 1970s, however, Boumediene had consolidated his regime and could focus on the pressing economic problems.
The Boumediene years were characterized by ardent socialism and state-controlled heavy industrialization, funded largely by energy exports. Dependence on France during the colonial period and the subsequent loss of capital, skill, and technology meant that Algeria's very survival in the postindependence period appeared to depend on rapid and extensive industrialization. Boumediene's industrialization program was highly centralized and involved the nationalization of almost all industrial and agricultural enterprises. By the early 1970s, almost 90 percent of the industrial sector and more than 70 percent of the industrial work force were under state control. The agricultural sector was relatively neglected at the time.
In the political realm, authority remained as concentrated as it did in the economic sphere. Aside from local and regional assemblies, administrative bodies that were essentially subordinate to the directives of the FLN, all political participation had been suspended following the coup. Boumediene had sacrificed free political exchange for regime stability and state consolidation. By 1975 the factional infighting had ceased and the internal situation had stabilized. In June 1975, the regime announced plans to resurrect public political institutions and draft a national constitution. The country was about to return to a constitutional system, Algeria's second national republic.
The National Charter approved in June 1976 by a countrywide referendum was the subject of much public and party debate and was the product of party, trade union, and other public association negotiations. The new charter was essentially an ideological proclamation reaffirming the socialist tradition and implicitly ensuring the authoritarian nature of the regime and state. The FLN received explicit recognition as a "unique" national front representing the revolutionary heritage and ideological identification of the Algerian people.
The adoption of the National Charter was quickly followed by the drafting of a national constitution. The constitution was a long document of some 199 articles detailing a new political structure in line with the principles enunciated in the National Charter. The constitution reestablished a national legislature, the National People's Assembly (Assemblée Populaire Nationale), but reasserted the preeminence of the FLN as the single legitimate party. Articles 23 through 26 of the 1976 constitution recognized the unique role of the FLN in the historical tradition and political culture of the Algerian state and confirmed its hegemonic position in the new political structure. Rather than breaking with the personalist character of the past ten years, the constitution reaffirmed the concentration of power in the executive. Boumediene was named head of state and head of government as president and prime minister, commander in chief, and minister of national security and defense, as well as secretary general of the country's single legal party.
Boumediene enjoyed the unwavering support of the military establishment. By consolidating authority and institutionalizing the Algerian political system, he instilled a degree of public confidence in his regime that Ahmed Ben Bella had been unable to achieve. Boumediene was reelected to the presidency in 1976 from a single-candidate ballot.
New elections for the APN were held in February 1977. Although all candidates were members of the FLN, they represented a variety of occupations and opinions. The diverse membership of the new assembly and the high proportion of industrial and agricultural workers and non-elites were lauded as "the final step in the construction of a socialist state" that had begun in earnest with the creation of workers' self-management assemblies at the local level in the late 1960s.
Boumediene died in December 1978. He left behind a consolidated national government, an industrializing economy, an extensive state-centered socialist program, a burgeoning energy export industry, and an apparently stable political system. He also left a political vacuum. Algeria's political development in the 1970s was heavily indebted to Boumediene's personal skills and acumen. The lack of an obvious successor left the FLN and the APN with a dilemma. The president of the APN was named interim head of state; he served until a special congress of the FLN named Colonel Chadli Benjedid secretary general of the party and candidate for president in January 1979. His selection was confirmed in a national election one week later, when 94 percent of those voting supported his nomination.
Despite his overwhelming electoral victory, Benjedid did not immediately enjoy the same respect that Boumediene had commanded. Accordingly, the new president was especially cautious in his first few years in office. His tentative and gradual reforms wandered little from the socialist course chosen by Boumediene.
Over time, however, Algeria moved slowly away from the strict socialism of the Boumediene years. After receiving a second popular mandate in 1985 with more than 95 percent of the vote in new presidential elections and after making some significant changes in government personnel, Benjedid seemed increasingly confident about instituting sweeping reforms that eventually altered radically the nature of the Algerian economy and polity.
Boumediene's socialist policy had focused almost exclusively on developing the industrial sector and relied on energy exports to finance its development at the expense of the domestic and especially the agricultural sector. Many of these industrialization projects were poorly designed and, instead of encouraging national development, eventually drained the economy. Relying on state initiative as the driving force behind economic development, large-scale industries quickly became consumed by nationalist imperatives rather than economically efficient ambitions. The fall of energy prices in the mid-1980s left Algeria, which was heavily dependent on the export of hydrocarbons, with a substantial national deficit. Agriculture, neglected in favor of heavy industry, was underdeveloped, poorly organized, and lacking in private initiative or investment. The reliance on food imports meant frequent food shortages and rapidly rising agricultural prices. Unfortunately, the crisis was not limited to the agricultural sector. The trade deficit was only one of Algeria's problems. High unemployment, one of the highest population growth rates in the world (3.1 percent per year in the early 1980s), an unbalanced industrial sector focused almost entirely on heavy industry, and rapidly declining revenues had eroded the state's welfare capacities and its ability to maintain political security and stability.
Benjedid's initial reforms concentrated on structural changes and economic liberalization. These measures included a shift in domestic investment away from heavy industry and toward agriculture, light industry, and consumer goods. State enterprises and ministries were broken up into smaller, more efficient, or at least more manageable, units, and a number of state-owned firms were divided and privatized. Benjedid opened the economy to limited foreign investment and encouraged private domestic investment. The new regime also undertook an anticorruption campaign. This campaign, aside from the obvious benefits of adding to the legitimacy of the regime, enabled Benjedid to eliminate much of the old-guard opposition loyal to Boumediene's legacy, thus strengthening his political control.
With his regime consolidated, Benjedid could intensify economic and political reform without the threat of opposition. His early reforms had been limited to the economic sector and had ensured that Benjedid remained in control of the reform process. By 1987 and 1988, however, he added political liberalization to the agenda and espoused free-market principles. He legitimized independent associations, even extending the new freedom to organize to the Algerian League of Human Rights that had consistently criticized the regime for suppressing public political activity and demonstrations. In the economic sector, Benjedid gave state enterprises increased managerial autonomy. Central planning by the state ended, and firms became subject to the laws of supply and demand. In addition, the regime reduced subsidies, lifted price controls, and accelerated the privatization of state-owned lands and enterprises. Finally, Benjedid tackled the heavy fiscal deficit by increasing taxes and cutting spending at the central government level, as well as reducing state-purchased imports.
Despite all these measures, or perhaps because of them, Algeria found itself in a critical position politically and economically in 1988. Benjedid's reforms had exacerbated an already dismal economic situation. The dismantling and privatization of state enterprises had resulted in rising unemployment and a drop in industrial output. Trade liberalization, including import reduction and currency devaluation, and the removal of price controls and reduction in agricultural subsidies resulted in a drastic increase in prices and an unprecedented drop in purchasing power.
The negative effects of the economic reforms were felt primarily by the disadvantaged. In contrast, the bourgeoisie and upper classes benefited greatly from economic liberalization. Economic measures legalized the private accumulation of wealth, ensured privileged access to foreign exchange and goods, and provided many with relative security as heads of recently privatized state enterprises. The result was widespread economic frustration and a lack of public confidence in the political leadership.
In October 1988, this economic and political crisis erupted in the most violent and extensive public demonstrations since independence. Following weeks of strikes and work stoppages, the riots raged for six days--from October 5 to 11. Throughout the country, thousands of Algerians attacked city halls, police stations, post offices--anything that was seen to represent the regime or the FLN. The disorder and violence were a protest against a corrupt and inefficient government and a discredited party. The riots were a product of declining living standards, rapidly increasing unemployment, and frequent food shortages. Furthermore, the riots represented a revolt against persistent inequality and the privileged status of the elite.
The poor economic situation was not unique to the Benjedid regime. Even the austere socialism of Boumediene, at least as tainted by corruption as its successor regime, had not guaranteed the economic well-being of the masses. The high oil prices in the 1970s had allowed Boumediene to fund an extensive state-supported welfare system, however, freeing him somewhat from popular political accountability. The crash of energy prices in the mid-1980s undermined this political tradeoff for a minimum standard of living and eventually undid Boumediene's successor, who had never managed to achieve quite the same level of stability. On the contrary, the political and economic liberalization under Benjedid polarized society by helping to expose the corruption and excesses of the elites while simultaneously opening up the political realm to the masses.
The government initially responded to the "Black October" riots by declaring a state of emergency and calling in the military, but the demonstrations spread. Hundreds were killed, including numerous young people, who made up the bulk of rioters in Algiers. The brutal military suppression of the riots would have far-reaching consequences, consequences that would ultimately lead to a redefinition of the military's role in the political configuration of the state. On October 10, Benjedid addressed the nation, accepting blame for the suppression and offering promises of economic and political reform. His hand had been forced. In an effort to regain the political initiative and contain the damage to his regime, Benjedid lifted the state of emergency, recalled the tanks, and announced a national referendum on constitutional reform.
Benjedid is given credit for responding to the country's most extensive and destructive riots since independence with political liberalization rather than suppression. For the next two years, dramatic upheavals of the political system marked the opening up of the political arena to public participation. The reasons for Benjedid's response are variously seen as a means of furthering his own political ambitions by altering the political configuration in his favor, a sincere commitment to political reform and democratic ideals, or a desperate effort to regain the political initiative. Most likely, the impetus for reform was a combination of all three factors.
In the weeks following the strikes, Benjedid tried to distance himself from the party and the old guard. He dismissed Prime Minister Mohamed Cherif Messadia, as well as the head of military security and a number of other officials associated with the most conservative factions of the FLN and the military. The noticeable absence of FLN party cadres in the new technocratic government presaged the president's own departure from the FLN leadership. On November 3, 1988, a number of earlier proposed reforms were approved in a national referendum, and plans for revisions of the national constitution were announced. The reforms included separation of party and state, free representation in local and national elections, and some redefinition of the executive powers.
The new constitution, accepted by national referendum in February 1989, marked the most significant changes in the ideological and political framework of the country since independence. The ideological commitment to socialism embodied in earlier constitutions was missing, and the new document formalized the political separation of the FLN and the state apparatus. The 1989 constitution allowed for the creation and participation of competitive political associations, further strengthened executive powers, diminished the role of the military in the political triangle, and only briefly alluded to the historical role of the FLN.
Subsequent legislation formally legalized political parties and established a system of proportional representation in preparation for the country's first multiparty elections. Proportional representation was intended to benefit the FLN, but the new electoral code did the exact opposite, magnifying the plurality of the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut--FIS) in the local and regional elections of June 12, 1990. The FIS, competing with more than twelve political parties and numerous independent candidates in the country's first multiparty elections, captured the greatest share of the anti-FLN/antiregime protest vote. The elections were officially boycotted by the Berber Front of Socialist Forces (Front des Forces Socialistes-- FFS) and Ben Bella's Movement for Democracy in Algeria (Mouvement pour la Démocratie en Algérie--MDA), along with a number of smaller opposition parties. About 65 percent of the eligible voters participated in the elections. The high turnout undoubtedly benefited the FIS, which as the largest, and possibly the only, plausible challenge to the FLN received a good percentage of its mandate as antiregime backlash. It has been argued, however, that the 35 percent abstention rate resulted largely from a deliberate political choice. Ethnic enclaves, especially in the Berber region where voters might have been expected to support such boycotting parties as the FFS, had some of the lowest turnouts in the country, at around 20 percent.
Despite the devastating defeat dealt to the ruling party, the June 1990 results went undisputed by the government, and the new council members assumed their positions. The date for national legislative elections was advanced to the following June, and the country appeared well on its way toward achieving the region's first multiparty system to transfer power peacefully to an opposition party. Then on June 5, 1991, as campaigning opened for the country's first national multiparty elections, the process came to a rapid halt as public demonstrations erupted against the government's March electoral reforms favoring the ruling party. The president called in the army to restore order, declared martial law, dismissed the government, and indefinitely postponed parliamentary elections.
Three months earlier, in March 1991, the government had presented and passed a bill reminiscent of crude gerrymandering. The bill increased the number of parliamentary seats while altering their distribution to achieve over-representation in rural areas, where the FLN's base of support rested. The bill also created a two-round voting system--if no party received an absolute majority in the first round, only the top two candidates would participate in a second round runoff. The likely candidates in such a runoff would be the FIS and the FLN. The FLN anticipated that the general public, faced with only two choices, would favor the FLN's more traditional and secular platform over a party that represented Islamism. The remaining parties, it was thought, would win seats in parliament in their regional strongholds but would be marginalized, each expected to win no more than 10 percent of the vote.
Nearly every political party responded to this distortion of the electoral process. The FIS decried the targeting of the Islamist party by laws prohibiting the use of mosques and schools for political purposes and laws severely restricting proxy voting by husbands for their wives. The FFS and many other secular opposition parties denounced the electoral changes as leaving only "a choice between a police state and a fundamentalist state."
On May 25 the FIS called for a general strike. Tensions escalated, and by early June the military was called in for the first time since October 1988 to suppress mass protests and enforce martial law. Specifically targeting Islamists, the military arrested thousands of protesters, among them FIS leaders Abbassi Madani and Ali Benhadj (also seen as Belhadj), who were later tried and sentenced to twelve years in prison. The military also took advantage of the situation to reassert its influence in politics, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mouloud Hamrouche and his cabinet. The new caretaker government consisted largely of technocrats, a conservative elite drawn from the top ranks of the civil service and former state-owned enterprises. Sid Ahmed Ghozali, until then minister of foreign affairs and a former head of the state-owned gas and oil company, was named prime minister.
The Ghozali government distanced itself from the FLN party cadres while remaining subservient to the military. The FLN, meanwhile, broke into several factions. Benjedid resigned from the party leadership in July, alienating any remaining factions in the party that supported his regime. In September 1991, the state of emergency was lifted and new elections were set for December 1991 and January 1992.
Two months before the start of the elections, in October 1991, the government issued a new electoral law whose bias was hardly better disguised than that of the March reforms that had provoked the initial demonstrations in June. The law increased the number of seats in the assembly, redistributed them to favor FLN strongholds, and omitted earlier provisions facilitating the participation of independent candidates. Moreover, most of the FIS political leadership was in prison (Madani and Benhadj had been joined by the remaining six members of the majlis ash shura, the FIS ruling council) and all newspapers were banned. Once again, the government sought to ensure that the results of the elections would be to its, and the military's, liking.
Nearly fifty political parties participated in the first round of the elections on December 26, 1991. The result was another clear victory for the FIS and an equally clear humiliation for the FLN, which once again performed poorly. The FIS appeared certain of achieving the two-thirds parliamentary majority necessary for constitutional reform. Its next closest competitor was the FFS, followed by the FLN as a distant third. With nearly 200 seats to be decided in runoff elections set for January 16, 1992, it appeared certain that a transfer of parliamentary power to the opposition was imminent.
The military, however, quickly affirmed its unwillingness to see power transferred to a political party it regarded as a threat to the security and stability of the state. Calling the government's position toward the Islamists "accommodating," the army called for the president's resignation and the suspension of the scheduled second round of elections.
The coup, led by the minister of defense Major General Khaled Nezzar, soon returned Algeria to an extremely tense state. Military troops were put on alert throughout the country, tanks and armored cars were deployed throughout Algiers, and military checkpoints were set up. President Benjedid resigned on January 11, citing "widespread election irregularities" and a risk of "grave civil instability." The military then reappointed Sid Ahmed Ghozali as prime minister. Ghozali was also named to head the new High Security Council (Haut Conseil de Sécurité--HCS), a six-member advisory body dominated by such senior military officials as Major General Nezzar and Major General Larbi Belkheir. This new collective executive body immediately assumed full political authority, suspending all other political institutions, voiding the December 1991 election results, and postponing future elections.
The HCS was soon replaced by the High Council of State (Haut Conseil d'État--HCE), designed as a transitional government that would have more political legitimacy than the HCS. In fact, the HCE differed little from the HCS. The new HCE was a five-member collective presidency dominated by military officials who had almost unlimited political powers. Former independence leader Mohamed Boudiaf was recalled from self-imposed exile in Morocco to lead the new HCE and serve as head of state.
The coup initially went virtually unchallenged because even the FIS leadership discouraged its followers from provoking clashes with the military. Relative tranquility prevailed, and the military withdrew its tanks and troops in the following days. Some Algerians even expressed support for the coup, citing fears of an Islamist government. Some 200,000 demonstrators marched in Algiers protesting the Islamists, and the main workers' union, the General Union of Algerian Workers (Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens--UGTA), in early January threatened to resist any Islamist government.
The period of relative calm, however, was as deceptive as it was brief. Within a month, near civil war occurred as Islamists struck back against the military crackdown. The new government reimposed a state of emergency, banned the FIS in March, and dissolved the communal and municipal assemblies, most of which had been controlled by FIS members since the June 1990 elections. The government also banned all political activity in and around mosques and arrested Islamist activists on charges ranging from possession of firearms to promoting terrorism and conspiracy against the state. Military courts tried and sentenced the activists to lengthy imprisonment or death, without right of appeal and/or full awareness of the charges brought against them. Thousands of demonstrators were taken to makeshift prison camps in the Sahara while hundreds of others were detained for questioning and often tortured. Most of the remaining top FIS leadership was arrested, and thousands of rank-and-file party members were forced underground. Other reversals of the democratization process quickly followed. The press, which had slowly gained freedom, was quickly reined in, the National People's Assembly was indefinitely suspended, and the omnipresent and ubiquitous mukhabarat (state security apparatus) resurfaced.
Despite the military's obvious targeting of the Islamists, the latter's political suppression drew heavy criticism even from FIS rivals. The FLN and the FFS soon proposed a tactical alliance with the FIS to counter the military government in an effort to preclude the complete abandonment of the democratic process.
The repressive military actions of the government against the Islamists were reminiscent of the military force used by the French colonial authorities against the nationalists during the War of Independence. Thousands of troops were mobilized and assigned to cities and all major urban centers. Curfews were imposed, removed, and reimposed. Entire neighborhoods were sealed off because of police sweeps and other searches for accused "terrorists." Islamists retaliated by killing military personnel, government officials, and police officers by the hundreds. Some 600 members of the security forces, and hundreds more civilians and Islamist demonstrators, were killed in the first twelve months following the coup. The majority of Algerians, meanwhile, were caught in the middle, distrusting the army as much as the Islamists.
The government, citing a need to "focus its full attention" on Algeria's economic problems, warned that it would not tolerate opposition. In reply, FIS leaders warned that the popular anger aroused by the political suppression was beyond their control. Hard-liners in FIS split from the more moderate pragmatists, criticizing the FIS leadership for cooperating with the government. As a result, radical factions replaced the relatively moderate FIS leadership, now long imprisoned. Meanwhile, other independent and radical armed Islamist groups arose, impatient not only with the government but with the FIS itself. The new radicals, FIS officials acknowledged, were beyond FIS control.
On June 29, 1992, head of state Mohamed Boudiaf was assassinated during a public speech at the opening of a cultural center in Annaba. The death of Boudiaf at the hands of a military officer illustrated the extent to which Algeria's political crisis transcended a simple contest for power between Islamists and military leaders or between religious and secular forces.
Twenty months after the coup, the country was still being torn apart by constant fighting between Islamists and the military. Following Boudiaf's assassination, HCE member Ali Kafi was appointed head of state. On July 8, only a week later, Prime Minister Ghozali resigned, and Belaid Abdessalam was named to replace him. Both Boudiaf and Ghozali had begun to move toward a rapprochement with the Islamists, no doubt recognizing their desperate need for popular support in the absence of any sort of constitutional legitimacy.
The months following Boudiaf's assassination and Ghozali's resignation were marked by intensified efforts to suppress "terrorism." Emergency tribunals, headed by unidentified judges who levied "exemplary" sentences with no means of appeal, were established to try Islamist "terrorists." An antiterrorism squad was headed in 1993 by General Mohamed Lamari, a former government official under Ghozali who was removed from office to facilitate talks with the opposition. Islamist activity intensified as Islamists also targeted civilians--teachers, doctors, professors, and other professionals--whose sympathies might lie with the military.
Cooperation in 1993 among various opposition groups and the predominance of professionals, including doctors and teachers, in such radical groups as the Armed Islamic Movement, was considered by a well-informed observer to imply a "considerable level of antiregime collaboration among apparently respectable middle-class Algerians." Moreover, it appeared that the radicalization of the opposition, far from receding, has spread into traditionally more moderate sectors of society.
Since independence the government has relied on veterans of the revolutionary period as leaders, although they represent little more than vague historical figures to most Algerians. The government has also ignored numerous opportunities for dialogue with the opposition, opting for rule by decree without any constitutional mandate. Moreover, divisions within the government have greatly hindered the development of an effective economic policy, undoubtedly the key to Algeria's political turmoil in the mid-1990s.
Prime Minister Abdessalam was greatly hampered in his economic efforts by his connection with Boumediene's failed heavy industrialization program from 1965 to 1977. On August 23, 1993, Abdessalem was dismissed and replaced by Redha Malek, formerly a distinguished diplomat but also a traditional nationalist vehemently opposed to the FIS and an advocate of a hard-line approach to combating "terrorism."
The legacy of the past has played heavily into the current political situation. For years the government had ruled without any accountability. Until the mid-1980s, corruption and inefficiency were often masked by high oil revenues that sustained an acceptable standard of living for most Algerians. Unfortunately, this legacy has greatly undermined the country's ability to rise to the current political challenge by inhibiting the development of an effective economic sector and by provoking widespread dissatisfaction among the majority of Algerians.
The political triangle of army-party-state that has governed Algeria since independence underwent significant changes under the liberal reforms of Benjedid: a new constitution was adopted, the constitutionally protected role of the FLN eliminated, and the authoritarian lock on society loosened. Events since January 1992, however, have not only reversed those reforms but also reasserted the central and preeminent role of the military in the government. Algeria has been under a "state of emergency" almost since the coup through late 1993, allowing the state to suspend almost all rule of law. Although the civil institutions remained in existence, Algeria in late 1993 was essentially a military autocracy whose only functioning authority was the HCE and an advisory body called the National Consultative Council (Conseil Consultatif National--CCN). Created in February 1992 by presidential decree following the dissolution of the APN, the CCN was intended, in the absence of a working parliament, to function as an institutional framework for enacting legislation. In practice, it was little more than a rubber stamp for the HCE's proposals.
Since independence in 1962, Algeria has had three constitutions. The first of these was approved by a constitutional referendum in August 1963, only after prior approval and modifications by the FLN. Intended as a means of legitimizing Ben Bella's new regime, the constitution also established Algeria as a republic committed to socialism and to the preservation of Algeria's Arab and Islamic culture. The constitution lasted only two years, however, and was suspended upon Colonel Boumediene's military coup in June 1965. For the next ten years, Algeria was ruled without a constitution, although representative local and provincial institutions were created in the late 1960s in Boumediene's attempt to decentralize political authority. In 1976 the National Charter and a new constitution were drafted, debated, and eventually passed by national referenda. Together, these documents formed the national constitution and ushered in the Second Algerian Republic. The new constitution reasserted the commitment to socialism and the revolutionary tradition of the nation, and established new government institutions, including the APN. The 1986 revisions continued the conservative nature of the previous constitutions but increased the role of the private sector and diminished the socialist commitment.
The revised constitution of February 1989 altered the configuration of the state and allowed political parties to compete, opening the way for liberal democracy. The new constitution removed the commitment to socialism embodied in both the National Charter and the constitution of 1976 and its 1986 revision. The references to the unique and historic character of the FLN and the military's role as "guardian of the revolution" were eliminated. The provisions for a unicameral legislature remained.
In what was considered a sweeping mandate of support for the liberalization efforts of Benjedid, a referendum on the 1989 constitution passed February 23, 1989, with a 75 percent approval and a 78 percent participation rate. The changes embodied in the constitution were not universally accepted, however. Within a month after the ratification of the new constitution, a number of prominent senior military officers resigned from the FLN Central Committee to protest the revisions. The most divisive issues included the separation of the religious institution and the state; the abandonment of the commitment to socialism; and the liberalization of political life, allowing independent political parties.
The 1989 constitution established a "state of law," accentuating the role of the executive and, specifically, the president, at the expense of the FLN. The president, having the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister at will, and maintaining singular authority over military affairs, emerged as the dominant force. The FLN became but one of many political parties. The responsibilities of the army were limited to defense and external security. Moreover, the army was obliged to become less visible because of its role in suppressing the October 1988 revolts.
Constitutional provisions have historically concentrated almost all major powers of the state in the hands of the executive. The original constitution specified more than twenty powers over which the president had sole authority. Leadership qualities of the individual presidents have augmented these constitutional prerogatives and facilitated the development of an essentially authoritarian system. In 1989 the new constitution created a "state of law," relying on a strong executive capable of implementing the political liberalization necessary to democratize Algeria.
The greatest beneficiary of the constitutional revisions was the office of president. The 1989 constitution further strengthened the presidential system at the expense of both the party and the army. As head of state, head of the High Judicial Council, commander in chief of the armed forces, and chairman of all legislative meetings, the president has effective control over all state institutions. The president appoints and dismisses the prime minister and all other nonelected civilian and military officials. The APN votes on the president's choice, but if the president's nominations are rejected twice, the assembly is dissolved. The actions of the prime minister become the responsibility of the APN although they may not have been validated by it. Only the president can initiate constitutional amendments. The president may bypass the APN by submitting legislation of "national importance" directly to a national referendum. In fact, Benjedid's third term in office consisted largely of legislation issued through his Council of Ministers, essentially rule by decree.
Algeria's first national legislature was formed in September 1962 under the constitution drafted by the Ben Bella regime but was suspended in 1965. For the next ten years, the Council of the Revolution ruled Algeria; there was no independent parliament. By 1976, with power consolidated in his hands, Boumediene commenced a series of reforms to establish formal political institutions. One of the first measures was the recreation of a national parliament.
The 1976 constitution described the APN as a unicameral, elected, representative legislative body. Under the 1989 law, deputies are elected for five-year terms, and all Algerians "enjoying full civil and political rights" and over the age of twenty-five are eligible. Elections occur by secret, direct, and universal ballot. Until the country's first multiparty elections in December 1991, all candidates were drawn from a single party list, approved by the FLN, although multiple candidates could compete for a single constituency.
The FLN had traditionally served as the only legal political party in the legislature and the only source of political identification. It controlled all aspects of political participation, including the trade unions and other civil organizations. In the prerevolutionary years, the party served as a source of national unity and mobilized the fight against French colonial domination. Having played such a dominant role in the War of Independence assured the FLN a privileged position in the emerging political configuration, a position preserved in the early constitutions.
The first Algerian constitution in 1963 established a single-party structure for the new nation and recognized the FLN as the single party. The constitution declared the party superior to the state--the party was to design national policy, the state to execute it. Political hegemony did not last long, however. Factional infighting within the party and Boumediene's heavily military-oriented presidency greatly undermined party authority. During most of the 1970s, with the Council of the Revolution as almost the sole political institution and Boumediene's cabinet primarily composed of military officers, the party's political functions were nearly eliminated. The president and his cabinet assumed the party's policy-making initiative; the elimination of the APN basically annulled mobilization responsibilities. The 1976 National Charter and constitution reasserted the party's symbolic and national role but bestowed little additional responsibility. In the late 1970s, with the reemergence of political institutions and elections, the party became again an important political actor. The creation in 1981 of a Political Bureau (or executive arm of the FLN in a communist sense), legislation requiring that all union and mass association leaders be FLN party members, and the extension of party authority resulted in the growth and increased strength of the party until the late 1980s, when its heavily bureaucratic structure came under serious scrutiny.
By the 1980s, the FLN had become discredited by corruption, inefficiency, and a broad generation gap that distanced the wealthy party elite from the realities of daily life for the masses of impoverished young Algerians. The FLN had ceased to be the national "front" its name suggests. Algeria's economic polarization was such that only 5 percent of the population was earning 45 percent of the national income, whereas another 50 percent was earning less than 22 percent of national income. Members of the party elite enjoyed privileged access to foreign capital and goods, were ensured positions at the head of state-owned enterprises, and benefited from corrupt management of state-controlled goods and services. The masses, however, suffered from the increasing unemployment and inflation resulting from government reforms and economic austerity in the mid- to late 1980s. The riots of October 1988 indicated that the FLN had lost legitimacy in the eyes of the masses.
Increasing economic polarization was but one facet of the broadening generation gap. Thirty years after independence, the FLN continued to rely on its links to Algeria's revolutionary past as its primary source of legitimacy, ignoring the fact that for most voters what mattered was not the martyrs of the past but the destitution of contemporary life. Indeed, 70 percent of the population was born after the revolution.
Benjedid's call for constitutional reform began the collapse of the FLN. The 1989 constitution not only eliminated the FLN's monopoly but also abolished all references to the FLN's unique position as party of the avant-garde. The new constitution recognized the FLN's historical role, but the FLN was obliged to compete as any other political party. By mid-1989 the military had recognized the imminent divestiture of the FLN and had begun to distance itself from the party. The resignation of several senior military officers from party membership in March 1989, generally interpreted as a protest against the constitutional revisions, also reflected a strategic maneuver to preserve the military establishment's integrity as guardian of the revolution. Finally, in July 1991 Benjedid himself resigned from the party leadership.
The legalization of political parties in 1989 caused a number of prominent party officials to defect from the FLN in the months that followed, as ministers left to form their own political parties or to join others. A break between the old guard and the reform-minded technocrats dealt the final blow to any FLN aspirations to remain a national front and foreshadowed the party's devastating defeat in the 1990 and 1991 elections. By the time of the coup in January 1992, some factions had even defected to join or lead Islamist parties, including a group that acted in alliance with the FIS.
The legalization of political parties, further enunciated in the Law Relative to Political Associations of July 1989, was one of the major achievements of the revised constitution. More than thirty political parties emerged as a result of these reforms by the time of the first multiparty local and regional elections in June 1990; nearly sixty existed by the time of the first national multiparty elections in December 1991.
Granting the right to form "associations of a political character," the constitution recognized the existence of opposition parties. Earlier, such parties were precluded because the FLN had a national mandate as a front, eliminating the political necessity of competitive political parties. Other political associations had also been limited because trade unions and other civil associations fell under FLN direction and had little autonomy. The new constitution recognized all political associations and mandated only a commitment to national unity and sovereignty. The July law further clarified the guidelines for the establishment and participation of political parties.
The law prohibited associations formed exclusively on regional, ethnic, or religious grounds. Ironically, however, the two parties that profited most in the 1990 and 1991 elections were the FIS and the FFS from the Kabylie region. That these parties were among the first legalized in 1989 has given credence to those who maintain that Benjedid's liberalization was based more on tactical personal considerations than genuine democratic ambitions. They argue that these parties had the means and appeal to challenge the monopoly of the FLN. The FLN became the main antagonist to the liberalization program of Benjedid and his then prime minister, Hamrouche. By the time of the military coup, the FLN had completely broken with the government.
The December 1991 elections and the scheduled second-round runoffs in January 1992 provided the first national test for the new multiparty system. The elections were open to all registered parties--parties had to register before the campaign period began--and were contested by almost fifty parties. Voting was by universal and secret ballot and assembly seats were awarded based on a proportional representation system. Only 231 of the 430 seats were decided in the first round of elections in which 59 percent of eligible voters participated, but an Islamist victory seemed assured by the Islamist command of 80 percent of the contested seats. The second round of elections was canceled by the military coup of January 11, 1992.
The pre-1989 electoral system allowed for multiple candidates for local and national elections, although all candidates were drawn from an FLN list. Districts were divided based on a proportional representation system. The legalization of competitive political parties in 1989 challenged the FLN with candidates drawn from other party lists. To preserve the FLN's political domination, the National People's Assembly, in which the FLN dominated, made modifications to the electoral districts. These redistributions involved heavy overrepresentation of the rural and less populated regions, traditional strongholds of the FLN, and drew heavy criticism from all political parties.
In the new system of proportional representation, all seats in the local and national assemblies are awarded to the party winning a majority of the popular vote. In the absence of an absolute majority, the party with a plurality of votes receives 51 percent of the seats and the remaining seats are proportionally divided among all other parties receiving at least 7 percent of the total popular vote. This new electoral system actually served to undermine the FLN when the FIS emerged as the most popular party in the June 1990 local elections and again in the first round of national elections in December 1991. In May 1991 and again in October 1991, the National People's Assembly approved new electoral codes adding extra seats, so that the total number of seats came to 430, up from 261 in 1976.
The judicial system, in common with other aspects of Algeria's culture, shares features of its French and Arab traditions. Throughout the French colonial period, secular courts prevailed as the final judicial authority, although Islamic sharia courts had jurisdiction over lower level cases, including civil cases, criminal offenses, family law, and other personal matters. Secular courts in Algeria owed their existence to the earlier Turkish administrative control, however, not French imposition. The French courts replaced the Turkish courts and, in so doing, modified them to reflect French principles of justice. The secular courts were authorized to review sharia court decisions, although for the majority of Algerians, the sharia court was the final source of judicial authority. Following independence in 1962, the government promised to create a new judicial system that would eliminate the French colonial legacy and reflect more accurately the ideological orientation of the new state, which was committed both to socialism and the Arab and Islamic tradition. The revised legal system was not created until 1975, under Boumediene, when new civil and criminal codes were announced.
These codes reflected the divergent nature of socialist and traditional Islamic notions of justice. Family law, personal status (especially regarding the rights of women), and certain criminal penalties were divisive issues and many were simply omitted from the new judicial codes. In the 1980s, Benjedid proposed a family code, which drew extensive public criticism but was ultimately passed in 1984.
Judges are appointed by the executive branch, and their appointment may be challenged only by the High Judicial Council. Judges are not tenured, although they remain relatively free from political pressure. The 1976 constitution asserted a judicial responsibility to uphold the principles of the revolution; this commitment has lessened in importance, however, as Algeria has moved away from its socialist origins.
The judicial tradition has stipulated that defendants be fully aware of the charges against them, that they have free access to legal counsel, and that they be able to contest a judicial outcome in a court of appeal. The constitution upholds basic principles of personal liberty and justice and prohibits the unnecessary holding of individuals for questioning for longer than forty-eight hours. Under Benjedid's political liberalization, constitutional respect for individual freedoms expanded. A number of political prisoners were released, and the elimination of exit visas and the legalization of political associations facilitated the exercise of free speech, movement, and expression.
Individual freedoms were, however, subordinate to military concerns and issues of national security and have been regularly suspended under periods of martial law. The military leadership in the early 1990s suspended almost all institutions of state, including those of the judicial branch. Islamist leaders and other criminal offenders have been tried by military tribunals and have received heavy sentences of imprisonment or death. The HCE, as the military presidency, is an authoritarian government responsible only to itself. Even at the best of times, the executive is not subordinate to the judicial branch, the president serving as head of the High Judicial Council. In the early 1990s, however, cases arising out of the state of emergency as opposed to ordinary civil or criminal cases have been assigned to the military tribunals.
The Supreme Court resides in Algiers. Its main directive is to ensure the equal and just application of law in all parts of the country. The Supreme Court has four major divisions: a Private Law chamber for civil and commercial cases, a Social Division that presides over issues of social security and labor, a Criminal Court, and an Administrative Division. The court has appellate authority over lower court decisions through the power of abrogation. This appellate power is more limited than United States notions of judicial review. The Supreme Court can review lower court decisions only on questions of procedure, not questions of legal dispute. When overruled, lower court decisions are returned to the lower courts for retrial. The Supreme Court issues no legal decisions and lacks jurisdiction over government actions and/or the constitutionality of government decrees. Traditionally, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of sharia law over contemporary secular law.
The forty-eight provincial courts have four divisions similar to those of the Supreme Court: civil law, criminal law, administrative, and accusation--or grand jury--courts. Civil cases may be referred to the provincial courts by appeal from the tribunals. Criminal cases can be of original or appellate review. Provincial courts have original jurisdiction for serious crimes. The Chamber of Accusation, serving as a grand jury, hears and charges a criminal suspect. The defendant must then go before a criminal tribunal, where a panel of three judges and four lay jurors hears the case.
Each dairah (pl., dawair; administrative district) has at least one tribunal. The tribunals are courts of first instance and cover civil and less serious criminal cases. They are intended to be easily accessible to the general public and are relatively informal in judicial practice. All of these courts are governed predominantly by Islamic law.
Military courts try matters relating to espionage, state security, and other offenses committed by military personnel. These courts are also activated under periods of martial law and have been used to try numerous Islamists, the most notable being Abbassi Madani and Ali Benhadj, leaders of the FIS, which was banned in 1992. The courts consist of three civil judges and two military judges. One of the civil judges presides.
The 1976 constitution provided for the establishment of a High Judicial Council responsible for presiding over issues of judicial discipline and implementation and the appointment of judicial officials. The president of the nation serves as president of the council, and the minister of justice serves as vice president. The council is also charged with advising the president on the exercise of his power to pardon.
The system of local government existing in the early 1990s was established under Boumediene in the late 1960s. The decentralization of local government during the latter period provided an alternative focus to the concentration of power in the highly centralized single-party apparatus and in Boumediene's own personalist rule. An extensive system of administration restricted the autonomy and independent action of provincial and local assemblies. Communal and provincial councils are generally confined to purely administrative and/or distributive functions, rubber stamping national government initiatives. Political campaigning was the responsibility of the FLN, not the individual candidates; this system eliminated electoral competition and resulted in a lethargic and apathetic administrative government at the local and regional levels despite the FLN's initial mandate to "politicize the masses." Voter turnout at local elections has generally been low. In contrast, in Algeria's first multiparty elections in June 1990, almost two-thirds of the population participated.
Algeria is divided into forty-eight wilayat (sing., wilaya), which are, in effect, provinces. The wilayat owe their origins to the colonial system, where they served as bureaucratic units of colonial administration. The system was reformed and expanded (from fifteen provinces to forty-eight) by the Wilaya Charter of 1969, which enumerated a specific legal code for the government of the provinces. The system was reformed again in 1976 by the national constitution.
Each wilaya is governed by a Popular Wilaya Assembly (Assemblée Populaire de Wilaya--APW). This deliberative body consists of thirty deputies and holds elections every five years. The first APW elections were held in May 1969. Each wilaya is also governed by a wali, or governor, who is appointed by the president and is the latter's direct political representative at the regional level. Both the Executive Council of the APW and the APW itself report directly to the wali. Wilaya government is responsible for the distribution of state services; the regulation of small and medium-sized industry, agriculture, tourism, road transport and education institutions; and the creation of new state-owned enterprises. Efforts, most notably in the reforms of the early 1980s, to strengthen the financial and political autonomy of these regional governments have achieved only mixed success. The APWs and other popularly elected bodies were in abeyance in late 1993.
Algeria has 227 administrative districts, or dawair, (sing., dairah), units between the wilayat and the communes. Certain licenses and permits must be obtained from the dawair, although most are distributed by the local communal authorities.
The local rural governing authority is the Communal Popular Assembly (Assemblée Populaire Communale--APC). The APCs are responsible for local administration, economy and finance, social and cultural affairs, and planning. Having no economic and little political autonomy, however, the communes administer central government programs rather than initiate independent projects. Each communal assembly has ten to eighty members, who are elected for five-year terms. The first APC elections were held in February 1967. The assembly elects a communal executive from its membership. The communal executive generally consists of a president, two or more vice presidents, and several councillors. The APCs and the communal executives are directly responsible to the national Ministry of Interior, Local Communities, and Tourism and receive much assistance, direction, and supervision from various ministries.
The number of seats in each Municipal Council is determined by proportional representation. Constituencies with a population of fewer than 10,000 residents have a minimum of seven council members. Council members are proportionally designated up to a maximum of thirty-three for residential districts with more than 200,000 inhabitants.
All national power and decision-making authority rest in the hands of a select elite and a select group of institutions. This elite structure has been characterized by its triangular configuration of army, party, and state. This configuration persists despite its fluidity--vacillating between peaceful coexistence and vehement competition for dominance. Events of the early 1990s and the subsequent realignment of this political configuration in favor of the military pose substantial challenges for Algeria's future development and stability because the administrative elite and top party functionaries have been relegated to a subordinate position.
In the years immediately following independence, no one faction of the political elite could control the entire political system. National preoccupation with state stability and political consolidation ensured a relatively stable balance among the competing elite factions. Under Boumediene, the party was reduced to a minor role while a civil-military autocracy in the form of the Council of the Revolution emerged as the predominant political force--consistent with Boumediene's vision of the development of a stable and secure, heavily centralized government. The party and other national institutions were allowed to disintegrate to preclude the emergence of any significant opposition to his highly concentrated government.
Renewed political institutionalization and mass politicization in the late 1970s countered this diminution of the party's role. The 1976 National Charter and constitution acknowledged the party's historical role while enhancing its position as the single legal party affiliation under which candidates could run in the newly created local, regional, and national assemblies. The elimination of the Council of the Revolution and the subsequent absorption of its remaining members into the Party Congress of the FLN after Boumediene's death further enhanced the party's national status.
Benjedid's regime, despite a reduction of formal executive powers immediately preceding his assumption of office, was marked by "power consolidation" that strengthened his personal control at the expense of state, military, and especially party elites. The deemphasis on personal politics (at least at the highest levels of government) and the increased importance of institutional life, however, eventually opened the way for the army's return as the dominant political force by greatly undermining the other sides of the political triangle.
Historically, the elite enjoyed its greatest preeminence under the socialist Boumediene regime, with its emphasis on heavy industrialization. The elite includes civil service employees, the technocratic top personnel in the state's major nationalized industries and enterprises (e.g., the National Company for Research, Production, Transportation, Processing, and Commercialization of Hydrocarbons and the National Company for Electricity and Gas), and economic and financial planners responsible for the national development program. Together these elite groups are responsible for planning, developing, focusing, and administering Algeria's economic and industrial sector. Having expanded significantly under Boumediene, this sector contracted substantially with the economic liberalization under Benjedid, although it remained a vital force and, historically, the most efficient and productive sector of the national elite. Because personal contacts and privileged access to capital account for personal status and class in Algeria, the administrative elite and its networks represent a major factor in the political environment. The administrative elite, although generally less politically visible than the party and military elites, can directly influence development by managing programs linked to economic growth and political stability.
Since the late 1980s, the administrative elite has provided a pool of technocrats for the staff of both the civilian government and the military presidency, which rely heavily on them in modernizing Algeria's economy. At the same time, the administrative elite has increasingly been plagued by factionalism.
The other major elements of the elite consist of the FLN and the military. Within the FLN, the Party Congress is the highest political organ. It consists of national delegates, representatives from the various mass associations and professional unions, local and regional elected officials, APN deputies, and military leaders. The congress determines general party policy, adopts and revises party statutes, and elects both the secretary general of the party and its Central Committee. The Central Committee, which is divided into various commissions, is an elected assembly that serves only during recesses of the Party Congress.
The military, consisting primarily of the People's National Army (Armée Nationale Populaire--ANP), has remained a constant force in Algerian politics, at times quite visible, at times more subtle. The military's most potent source of power emanates from its monopoly of the coercive instruments of force. Equally significant, however, is the military's symbolic role as "guardian of the revolution" and guarantor of state stability. Its technical and administrative skills have been critical to Algeria's political and economic development. A certain domestic prestige stems from the military's influential role in regional and international affairs. The military is also very active in local and provincial affairs. Army officials are represented on all major political institutions and frequently have more influence in regional administration than do the civilian provincial governors.
Historically, the army has interfered only when conditions "necessitated" military intervention to ensure the security of the state. In January 1992, only days away from national legislative elections that were likely to return a sweeping Islamist victory, the military resurfaced politically in a highly visible manner. Anticipating what the armed forces interpreted to be a "grave threat" to the secular interests and political stability of the state and defying the apparent government and national volition, the military demonstrated that it alone would determine the course of Algerian politics.
The system of power in 1993, like that between 1965 and 1978, was a military dictatorship with few legal institutions defining it. Following the coup of January 1992 that ousted Benjedid and eliminated constitutional rule, a collective presidency was established, responsible for implementing political authority. The national constitution has been suspended (a referendum on a new constitution and political structure was expected to be held in late fall 1993), so all political powers have been assumed on a de facto basis with almost no limitations.
The High Council of State (Haut Conseil d'État--HCE) is the official name for the collective presidency that governed Algeria in late 1993. A five-member council, it was presided over by Ali Kafi, a former War of Independence veteran and founding member of the FLN, serving as head of state. The prime minister was Redha Malek, a distinguished figure of the preindependence and postindependence periods, who served his country in several diplomatic posts including that of ambassador to the United States (1979-82); in the latter capacity he was instrumental in negotiating the release of United States hostages in Iran in 1981. The HCE replaced the High Security Council, the transitional government that assumed power immediately following the coup, and was dominated by military officials, although it has been marked by frequent changes of personnel. Its mandate was due to expire at the end of 1993, when it was scheduled to hand over power to a new transition government that would be entrusted with resuming the democratic process.
The National Consultative Council (Conseil Consultatif National--CCN) was conceived by head of state Mohamed Boudiaf in February 1992 as an ex-officio institution to fill the legislative vacuum and to validate HCE legislation. The APN, Algeria's national legislature, was suspended one week before the military coup in January 1992. The CCN was an advisory board of sixty members whose principal function was to "provide studies, analysis, and examination of policy," and in the absence of a working parliament, "to provide an institutional framework for passing legislation." The council was originally headed by Redha Malek, whose official title was president of the council. The council has no members from the from FLN or from the FIS, which in 1993 was banned. It consists of business leaders, journalists, and academics. Several council members have been assassinated, allegedly by Muslim extremists intent on punishing "collaborators" of the military junta.
Islam in Algeria is part of the political tradition dating back before independence, when the revolutionary rhetoric of the FLN drew upon the unifying force of Islam to strengthen national cohesion and opposition to colonial rule. In the postindependence period, the government, recognizing the mobilizing potential of Islam as a political force, tried to bring activist Islamist groups under its control. Despite these efforts, an independent Islamist movement eventually emerged that would form the basis for the most significant opposition party to the government in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Whereas more than fifty independent parties and more than one Islamist organization emerged in the months following the legalization of parties, the FIS emerged as the only national contender to the hegemony of the FLN. Although not the only Islamic party, the FIS could attract a large percentage of the electorate. The FIS presented the only viable and comprehensive alternative program to that of the existing regime and offered a social and religious focus as well.
Until the late 1980s, the government required that imams be named by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and prohibited the formation of any Islamist political or public association. Sermons and religious speeches were monitored, and worship services could be held only in officially designated mosques. But, with the urban growth that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, the government could not keep up with the proliferation of mosques and neighborhood associations. This "imam shortage" opened the way for the independent Islamist movement, which quickly moved in to fill the public arena. These "unofficial imams" preached wherever they could find space and occupied official mosques in defiance of government legislation. The Islamists who occupied these urban mosques offered comprehensive social programs that included schooling, business development and neighborhood beautification, garbage pickup, tutoring sessions, and economic assistance for needy families. In a time of severe economic crisis and apparent government ineptitude, the Islamists did not seem to be limited by the reductions in municipal budgets and appeared committed to social welfare programs and improving the material condition of the general populace.
This social commitment would later benefit the political aspirations of the movement by creating a mass base from which to draw public support, even from those sectors unlikely to support an Islamist party. In fact, the commercial bourgeoisie --entrepreneurs driven by profit motives--were among the most important financial contributors to the Islamist movement. These businessmen were attracted to the FIS program by promises of tax cuts, deregulation, and economic incentives for business development. The Islamist movement has a national as well as a religious appeal. It has attacked the widespread corruption in the government and suggested solutions for the housing and unemployment crises. All of these efforts provide attractive campaign points for any opposition party, religious or secular, and allow the Islamist movement to transcend the traditional bases of Islamist support.
The Benjedid government in the early 1980s relaxed the restrictions on Islam and its political expression, hoping to preclude the development of a more politically active Islamist movement. Islamist political opposition to the regime was tolerated, more mosques were constructed, religious education in the schools was encouraged, and in 1984 a new family code closely following Islamic tenets was enacted. A number of prominent Islamic leaders were released from prison, including Abbassi Madani, a university professor who would be one of the founders of Algeria's first Islamic political party.
The FIS emerged as a political party on September 16, 1989. One of the first parties to apply for legal recognition in Algeria's new multiparty system, the FIS had begun to take shape in the months before the constitutional revision that legalized political parties. Islamist leaders met between February and August 1989 while the APN was debating the new legislation that would enact the constitutional provision allowing for the creation of "associations of a political character." The FIS named Shaykh Abbassi Madani, a moderate Western-educated professor of comparative literature at the University of Algiers, as its leader. His second in command was Ali Benhadj, a high school teacher known for his fiery and militant rhetoric and radical notions of the role of political Islam. This dual leadership and the lack of a clear doctrine allowed for the variable interpretation and pluralistic nature of the FIS as a political party. The more moderate Madani represented a conservative faction within the party intent on using the democratic system to implement its Islamist code. Belhadj, with wider grass-roots supports, drew the younger population intent on the immediate imposition of Islamic law.
In line with the nationalist appeal of the Islamic movement, FIS as a political party has transcended religious affiliation. In the economic sphere, the FIS advocates a free-market approach with lower taxes and incentives for developing the private sector. The party also calls for cuts in military spending. Its program is largely driven by domestic interests and is not linked to an international Islamist movement. In fact, the party platform in late 1992 called for international cooperation with the West to explore and expand Algeria's natural resources and export potential.
Many people have minimized the strength of the FIS by maintaining that its greatest appeal has been in the impoverished urban centers filled with unemployed and discontented youth. To this view one must add a few qualifiers. First, in the early 1990s more than 70 percent of Algeria's total population was under the age of thirty (more than 50 percent was under the age of nineteen). To the extent that the party appeals to disgruntled youth, it appeals to a huge percentage of the population. Second, whereas large numbers of unemployed fill the ranks of the FIS, they are without work primarily as a result of poor economic policy and limited opportunity. These factors constitute an inevitable and legitimate precipitate for a backlash vote against the incumbent regime. Finally, the June 1990 local elections demonstrated that the appeal of the FIS was not limited to the poorer districts. FIS candidates won in many affluent districts in the capital and in such provinces as El Tarf, home of Benjedid.
At the time of the June 1990 elections, the FIS was a pluralist and generally moderate party. Under the leadership of Abbassi Madani, in contrast to Ali Benhadj, the FIS resembled a moderate social democratic party more than a radical Islamist party. The radicalization of the Islamists and the violent uprisings that dominated political life in 1992 and 1993 resulted from the revived political authoritarianism led by the army and were not necessarily an attribute of the party itself. In fact, the party, untested in a national capacity, can be measured only by its actions. In those local districts controlled by the FIS since the 1990 elections, few of the radical changes feared by many outsiders and the old guard in the ruling elite have transpired. In part the retention of the status quo has been caused by substantial cuts in municipal budgets and in part by the lack of time and flexibility to alter drastically existing legislation. However, disagreements within the leadership itself, especially over the timetable for implementation of Islamic principles, have been perhaps the strongest factor in the lack of change.
Politicized Algerian civil society owes its origins to the prerevolutionary period when it absorbed much of the French notions of associational life and state-society relations. From the 1920s until the War of Independence, Algerians were allowed to participate in French professional and trade unions and other mass organizations. Through most of Algeria's independent history, civil society and mass organizations have been subordinate to the state-party apparatus and relegated to roles of recruitment and propaganda. From 1968 until 1989, all mass associations were incorporated under the direct administration of the FLN. From the party's perspective, integrating the independent organizations enabled the party to become a true "front," a unique body representing the populace, while simultaneously inhibiting the development of any independent political opposition. Subordinate to the party administration, the associations quickly became engrossed in mobilizing mass support for the party and government and less occupied with pursuing the interests of the groups they represented.
The political crisis of the late 1980s radically altered the dynamic in which the people accepted central control in return for economic security by shifting some of the initiative away from the state and toward civil society. "Associations of a political character" were legalized and allowed to organize, recruit, and demonstrate. In 1989 the legalization of political parties resulted in a large number of independent interest groups emerging as political parties, attesting to the pervasive nature of associational life in Algerian political culture despite government efforts at "depoliticization" and heavy government supervision. Party proliferation was facilitated by a loosening of government regulations. Government authorization became necessary only for those organizations having a "national character," and legalization was extended to any party that did not pose a direct threat to national sovereignty. Hundreds of independent institutions emerged in the following years.
If any one element of civil society has consistently presented a cohesive and substantive constituency, it is the workers' unions. The explosion of union activity following political liberalization in the late 1980s indicates that the affiliational role of the unions has persisted despite years of subordination to party directives.
The Algerian General Workers' Union (Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens--UGTA) was created in 1956 after Algerian participation in French trade unions was banned. Despite the union's efforts to remain independent, it was taken over by the FLN leadership in 1963. Under the party structure and the socialist tenets of the National Charter, the UGTA became more of an administrative apparatus than an independent interest group. The UGTA consistently opposed mass strikes and public demonstrations that threatened productive economic activity and supported government legislation to prohibit strikes in certain industrial sectors. Until the mid-1980s, all member unions were integrated federations spanning several industries. After 1984 and in response to increasing independent activity on behalf of the workers, these large federations were broken down into smaller workers' assemblies, greatly reducing the political force of the large unions and strengthening the managerial control of the UGTA authorities. The number of strikes sharply declined in the following years.
From 1989 until January 1992, union activity increased to an intensity not previously witnessed. Splits within the UGTA, the creation of a number of new, smaller, and more active unions-- including the formation of an Islamic labor union--and a rapid rise in the number of strikes and demonstrations have quickly politicized a previously dormant workers' movement. The frequency and size of labor strikes jumped; Ministry of Labor figures placed the number of strikes for 1989 at 250 per month, four times that of the previous year.
The growth of the workers' movement illustrates the genuineness of democratization in the period up to the January 1992 coup. Labor has generally not supported economic liberalization, and strikes have hampered a number of the government's free-market reforms. The government's response to and tolerance for increased mass politicization and especially union activity will undoubtedly provide clear evidence of the likelihood for successful democracy in the 1990s.
The FLN formed the National Union of Algerian Students (Union Nationale des Étudiants Algériens--UNEA), but party directives had less impact on the UNEA than on other FLN-influenced bodies such as the UGTA. The student union was quite active throughout the 1960s despite government attempts to quell the movement. Strikes, boycotts, and other violent clashes between student groups and government officials continued to upset numerous university campuses until the union was suppressed and dissolved in 1971. The student movement was subsequently absorbed into the more docile National Union of Algerian Youth (Union Nationale de la Jeunesse Algérienne--UNJA), a national conglomerate of youth organizations controlled by the FLN. The UNJA was the only youth group to be recognized officially in the list of national associations enumerated in the National Charter of 1976.
Despite a brief surge of student demonstrations in the late 1970s, the UNJA leadership has increasingly met with apathy and a lack of interest on the part of both high school and university students--in part because of the existence of a number of local organizations that parallel UNJA activities. Most of the UNJA's roster in 1993 did not consist of students.
As has been true for most other elements of civil society, FLN has dominance translated into a greater emphasis on party propaganda and mobilization than on the association's own objectives. Implementing these objectives a posed challenge to the student union leadership. Union leaders face a disillusioned constituency--students who upon completing years of education cannot find jobs, masses of impoverished and unemployed youth with little confidence in distant authorities, and youth without nostalgia for the War of Independence they are too young to remember. When the population exploded onto the streets in October 1988, it was the students who were the first to organize and who made up the bulk of demonstrators in the six days of rioting.
The National Union of Algerian Farmers (Union Nationale des Paysans Algériens--UNPA) was created in 1973 and officially incorporated by the FLN. The UNPA has great organizational complexity, having a number of affiliated and administrative bodies at the local and regional levels. The UNPA has less autonomy than other national associations because the Ministry of Agriculture has assumed many of its ostensible functions. Most agricultural lands were nationalized under Boumediene, and the union thus consists of farmers having few or no noncollectivized lands. Lacking an independent history as a union before its creation as part of the party apparatus, the UNPA has been less politically active, less cohesive, and less influential than some of its counterparts. Reciprocal efforts by the government to revive the agricultural sector and by the union to educate the government regarding the inherent limitations of small cultivators have improved the number of services and general production conditions of agricultural workers. Government reforms under Benjedid decentralized and broke up ownership of most of the nationalized lands, although demands persisted for the restitution of all nationalized lands. These demands were loudest from factions that have broken off from the UNPA to form their own independent agricultural unions since 1988.
One of the most recent sectors of civil society to emerge as an independent movement is that of the entrepreneurs. For most of Algeria's political history, the socialist orientation of the state precluded the development of a class of small business owners and resulted in strong public anticapitalist sentiment. Economic liberalization under Benjedid transformed many state-owned enterprises into private entities and fostered the growth of an active and cohesive group of professional associations of small business owners, or patronat. The patronat has maintained almost continuous dialogue with the government, has strongly supported government reforms, and has persisted in its lobbying efforts. The patronat consists of well over 10,000 members and is steadily expanding. Some of its member associations include the Algerian Confederation of Employers, the General Confederation of Algerian Economic Operators, and the General Union of Algerian Merchants and Artisans.
The Socialist Vanguard Party (Parti de l'Avant-Garde Socialiste--PAGS), although not legally recognized, has persisted as a political opposition party throughout the single-party period. As an outgrowth of the Algerian Communist Party (Parti Communiste Algérien--PCA), which disappeared soon after Algerian independence, the PAGS has consistently opposed the government, offering sharp criticism of all political leaders and most of their programs. Its members, referred to as "Pagsistes," have infiltrated almost every legally recognized mass association despite their unofficial status. The Pagsistes have been especially prominent in such organizations as the UNJA and UGTA, encouraging leftist tendencies. The legalization and proliferation of political parties in 1989 in practice annulled the necessity of PAGS's continued existence; the Pagsistes essentially disappeared into the plethora of nationally recognized opposition groups. No communist party or political association has been legally recognized.
The Algerian women's movement has made few gains since independence, and women in Algeria remain relegated to a subordinate position that compares unfavorably with the position of women in such neighboring countries as Tunisia and Morocco. Once the war was over, women who had played a significant part in the War of Independence were expected, by the government and society in general, to return to the home and their traditional roles. Despite this emphasis on women's customary roles, in 1962, as part of its program to mobilize various sectors of society in support of the socialism, the government created the National Union of Algerian Women (Union Nationale des Femmes Algériennes-- UNFA). On March 8, 1965 the union held its first march to celebrate International Women's Day; nearly 6,000 women participated.
The union never captured the interest of feminists, nor could it attract membership among rural workers who were probably most vulnerable to the patriarchal tradition. In 1964 the creation of Al Qiyam (values), a mass organization that promoted traditional Islamic values, delivered another blow to the women's movement. The resurgence of the Islamic tradition was largely a backlash against the role of French colonists in the preindependence period. During the colonial period, the French tried to "liberate" Algerian women by pushing for better education and eliminating the veil. After the revolution, many Algerians looked back on these French efforts as an attempt by the colonists to "divide and conquer" the Algerians. Islam and Arabic tradition became powerful mobilizing forces and signs of national unity.
Women's access to higher education has improved, however, even if their rights to employment, political power, and autonomy are limited. For the most part, women seem content to return to the home after schooling. Overall enrollment at all levels of schooling, from primary education through university or technical training, has risen sharply, and women represent more than 40 percent of students.
Another major gain of the women's movement was the Khemisti Law. Drafted by Fatima Khemisti, wife of a former foreign minister, and presented to the APN in 1963, the resolution that later came to be known as the Khemisti Law raised the minimum age of marriage. Whereas girls were still expected to marry earlier than boys, the minimum age was raised to sixteen for girls and eighteen for boys. This change greatly facilitated women's pursuit of further education, although it fell short of the nineteen-year minimum specified in the original proposal.
The APN provided one of the few public forums available to women. In 1965, following the military coup, this access was taken away when Boumediene suspended the APN. No female members were elected to the APN under Ben Bella, but women were allowed to propose resolutions before the assembly (e.g., the Khemisti Law). In the early postindependence years, no women sat on any of the key decision-making bodies, but nine women were elected to the APN when it was reinstated in 1976. At the local and regional level, however, women's public participation rose significantly. As early as 1967, ninety-nine female candidates were elected to communal assemblies (out of 10,852 positions nationwide). By the late 1980s, the number of women in provincial and local assemblies had risen to almost 300.
The 1976 National Charter went far toward guaranteeing legal equality between men and women. The charter recognizes women's right to education and refers to their role in the social, cultural, and economic facets of Algerian life. However, as of early 1993, the number of women employed outside the home remained well below that of Tunisia and Morocco.
A new family code backed by conservative Islamists and proposed in 1981 threatened to encroach on these gains and drew the protest of several hundred women. The demonstrations, held in Algiers, were not officially organized by the UNFA although many of the demonstrators were members. The women's objections to the family code were that the code did not contain sufficient reforms. The debate over the family code forced the government to withdraw its proposal, but a conservative revision was presented in 1984 and quickly passed by the APN before much debate resurfaced. The 1981 proposal had offered six grounds for divorce on the part of the wife, allowed a woman to work outside the home after marriage if specified in the marriage contract or at the consent of her husband, and imposed some restrictions on polygyny and the conditions in which the wives of a polygynous husband were kept. In the revised code, provisions for divorce initiated by women were sharply curtailed, as were the restrictions on polygyny, but the minimum marriage age was increased for both women and men (to eighteen and twenty-one, respectively). In effect, however, although the legalities were altered, little changed for most women. Further, it was argued, that the enunciation of specific conditions regarding the rights of the wife and the absence of such specifications for the husband, and the fact that women achieve legal independence only upon marriage whereas men become independent at age eighteen regardless of marital status, implicitly underline women's inferior status. Protest demonstrations were once again organized, but, occurring after the fact (the code had been passed on June 9), they had little impact.
A number of new women's groups emerged in the early 1980s, including the Committee for the Legal Equality of Men and Women and the Algerian Association for the Emancipation of Women, but the number of women actively participating in such movements remained limited. Fear of government retaliation and public scorn kept many women away from the women's groups. At the same time, the government had become increasingly receptive to the role of women in the public realm. In 1984 the first woman cabinet minister was appointed. Since then, the government has promised the creation of several hundred thousand new jobs for women, although the difficult economic crisis made achievement of this goal unlikely. When the APN was dissolved in January 1992, few female deputies sat in it, and no women, in any capacity, were affiliated with the HCE that ruled Algeria in 1993, although seven sat on the sixty-member CCN. The popular disillusionment with the secular regime and the resurgence of traditional Islamist groups threaten to further hamper the women's movement, but perhaps no more so than the patriarchal tradition of the Algerian sociopolitical culture and the military establishment that heads it.
From national independence and until the late 1980s, Algeria had almost no independent news media. Colonial legislation banned all nationalist publications during Algeria's fight for independence, and, although a few underground papers were circulated, independent Algeria emerged with no significant national news source. Ben Bella did not inhibit the freedom of the press in the immediate aftermath of the war, but self-imposed limitations kept the press rather prudently progovernment.
In 1964 government control tightened, and most Algerian news publications were nationalized. All news media became subject to heavy censorship by the government and the FLN. A union of journalists was formed under FLN auspices but was largely insignificant as an independent association until the late 1980s.
The primary function of the news media was not to inform or educate but to indoctrinate--affirming and propagating the socialist tenets of the national government, rallying mass support behind government programs, and confirming national achievements. No substantive and little surface-level criticism was levied against the regime, although evaluations of the various economic and social problems confronting the nation were available. Article 55 of the 1976 constitution provided that freedom of expression was a protected liberty but that it could not jeopardize the socialist objectives or national policy of the regime. The Ministry of Information worked to facilitate government supervision and to inhibit circulation of unauthorized periodicals. Almost all foreign newspapers and periodicals were likewise prohibited. Television and radio news programs escaped some of the more heavy censorship although they, too, were expected to affirm government policies and programs. Most news broadcasts were limited to international events and offered little domestic news other than accounts of visiting foreign delegations and outlines of the government's general agenda.
In the late 1980s, the situation changed under Benjedid. Independent national news sources were encouraged and supported. The new constitution reaffirmed the commitment to free expression, this time with no qualifying restrictions. New laws facilitated and even financially assisted emerging independent papers. Limitations on the international press were lifted, resulting in a mass proliferation of news periodicals and television programs presenting an independent position to a nation accustomed to getting only one side of the picture.
The liberalization facilitated the creation and circulation of a number of independent national French- and Arabic-language newspapers and news programs. A 1990 law legislated a guaranteed salary for the first three years to any journalists in the public sector establishing independent papers. As a result of the explosion of local papers, journals, radio and television programs as well as the relaxation of laws inhibiting the international press, the Algerian public has been educated and politicized. Journalists have become an important and influential sector of civil society. One program in particular, "Face the Press" (Face à la Presse), appearing weekly and pitting national leaders against a panel of journalists, has drawn immense popular enthusiasm. Among the major newspapers are AlMoudjahid (The Fighter), the organ of the FLN, published in Arabic and French; the Arabic dailies Ach Cha'ab (The People, also an FLN organ), Al Badil (The Alternate), Al-Joumhouria (The Republic), and An Nasr (The Victory); and the French dailies Horizons and Le Soir d'Algérie (Algerian Evening). As part of the military crackdown following the January 1992 coup, the news media have been restricted once again. A limited number of newspapers and broadcasts continue to operate, but journalists have been brought in by the hundreds and detained for interrogating. Tens more have been arrested or have simply disappeared, or have been killed by Islamists.
The arabization of society was largely a reaction to elite culture and colonial domination and dates back to the revolutionary period when it served as a unifying factor against French colonial forces. The Arabic and Islamic tradition of the Algerian nation has been preserved through constitutional provisions recognizing its fundamental role in developing Algerian political character and national legislation encoding its existence in Algerian daily life--in courts and in schools, on street signs, and in workplaces. Arabization is seen as a means of national unity and has been used by the national government as a tool for ensuring national sovereignty.
Under Boumediene, arabization took the form of a national language requirement on street signs and shop signs, despite the fact that 60 percent of the population could not read Arabic. Calls have been made to substitute English for French as the second national language, eliminate coeducational schooling, and effect the arabization of medical and technological schools. Algeria remains caught between strident demands to eliminate any legacy from its colonial past and the more pragmatic concerns of the costs of rapid arabization.
Emotional loyalties and practical realities have made arabization a controversial issue that has consistently posed a challenge to the government. In December 1990, a law was passed that would effect complete arabization of secondary school and higher education by 1997. In early July 1993, the most recent legislation proposing a national timetable for imposing Arabic as the only legal language in government and politics was again delayed as a result of official concerns about the existence of the necessary preconditions for sensible arabization. The law was to require that Arabic be the language of official communication--including with foreign nations, on television, and in any other official capacities--and would impose substantial fines for violations.
Meanwhile the pressure for arabization has brought resistance from Berber elements in the population. Different Berber groups, such as the Kabyles, the Chaouia, the Tuareg, and the Mzab, each speak a different dialect. The Kabyles, who are the most numerous, have succeeded, for example, in instituting the study of Kabyle, or Zouaouah, their Berber language, at the University of Tizi Ouzou, in the center of the Kabylie region. Arabization of education and the government bureaucracy has been an emotional and dominant issue in Berber political participation. Young Kabyle students were particularly vocal in the 1980s about the advantages of French over Arabic.
The Arabization of Algerian society would expedite the inevitable break with France. The French government has consistently maintained a tolerant position, arguing that arabization is an Algerian "internal affair"; yet it seems certain that such sweeping changes could endanger cultural, financial, and political cooperation between the two countries. Despite both Algerian and French statements concerning the wish to break free of the legacy of the colonial past, both nations have benefited from the preferential relationship they have shared and both have hesitated to sever those ties. The language question will undoubtedly remain a persistent and emotional issue far into the future.
Algeria's own revolutionary tradition and its commitment to self-determination and nationalism have historically influenced its foreign policy. Pledged to upholding and furthering the revolution against imperialism, Algeria has been a prominent leader in both the region and the developing world. As time has passed, the ideological ambitions of the immediate postindependence years have been subordinated to more pressing economic and strategic interests. Even during the austere socialist years of Boumediene, economic factors played a significant role in determining the course of foreign policy toward both East and West.
By the late 1980s, Algeria's own economic and political problems and the changed global situation and international economy had restricted Algerian foreign policy. The new domestic regime altered Algeria's ideological commitments, moving the country away from its socialist orientation and closer to the West. Algeria's strategic economic and political initiatives in regional affairs began to take precedence over a greater ideological commitment to the developing world and Africa. The 1976 National Charter redefined Algeria's foreign policy objectives, revoking the commitment to socialist revolution and shifting toward nonalignment in the world arena. The domestic situation--the growing popular unrest and decreasing government revenues and standard of living--limited the freedom of the government to commit itself externally. Focusing on issues of direct relevance to the domestic economy became the greatest priority. Concurrently, the surge in popular movements and opposition parties increased the political constraints on foreign policy actors, as evidenced in the dramatic reversal of the government's position on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The Maghrib remains a politically, economically, and strategically important area for Algerian foreign policy objectives. Sharing economic, cultural, linguistic, and religious characteristics, as well as national borders, the Maghrib nations have historically maintained highly integrated diplomatic interests. Before Algerian independence, the other Maghrib nations, former colonies themselves, supported the revolutionaries in their fight against the French, providing supplies, technical training, and political assistance. After independence, relations became strained, especially between Algeria and Morocco, whose conservative ideological orientation conflicted with Algeria's socialist direction, and tensions existed over boundary issues between the two. Accusations of harboring political insurrectionists from each other's countries damaged relations between Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia throughout the 1970s. In the 1980s, however, political and economic liberalization in Algeria drew the countries closer together, and relations improved dramatically. As Algeria's foreign policy orientation has shifted toward regional concerns and away from unsustainable ideological commitments, efforts toward forging a Greater Maghrib have dominated Algerian foreign policy.
The notion of a Greater Maghrib has historical allusions to a more glorious and precolonial past and has provided a unifying objective to which all Maghrib leaders have subscribed. Achieving more concrete steps toward political and economic cooperation, however, has proved much more difficult because political and economic rivalries and strategic regional interests have frequently inhibited amicable relations. In 1964 a Maghrib Permanent Consultative Committee was established to achieve a Maghrib economic community. This committee was plagued with differences, however, and could not reach an agreement on economic union. In the late 1980s, following the historic diplomatic reconciliation between Algeria and Morocco, an accord finally established an economic and political Union of the Arab Maghrib (Union du Maghreb Arabe--UMA).
Morocco in June 1988 acceded to the formation of an inter-Maghrib commission responsible for developing a framework for an Arab Maghrib union. This action broadened the scope of the Treaty of Fraternity and Concord that had originated in 1983 as a bilateral agreement between Tunisia and Algeria. The treaty pledged each nation to respect the other's territorial sovereignty, to refrain from supporting insurrectionist movements in the other country, and to abstain from using force for resolving diplomatic controversies. Prompted by Tunisian diplomatic concerns about Libyan ambitions and Algeria's hope to solidify its regionally predominant position through a solid political confederation, Tunisia and Algeria opened the agreement to all other Maghrib nations, and Mauritania joined later the same year. (Mauritania's accession to the treaty precipitated a bilateral agreement between Libya and Morocco, the Treaty of Oujda, signed in August 1984, declaring political union and establishing a regional dichotomy.)
The UMA treaty--signed in February 1989 in Marrakech, Morocco, by Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia--provided a loose framework for regional cooperation. It established a presidential council composed of the heads of state of each member country; the countries jointly shared a rotating presidency, a consultative council, and a judicial body. Aside from Libya, political inclinations for turning the UMA into a more substantial confederation have been weak. Plans for a common economic market will not come into effect until the year 2000, and bilateral agreements have dominated political negotiations. The greatest significance of the UMA is its symbolism. The North African economic union presents a potential counterpart to the European Community, whose cooperation threatens to undermine the position of Maghrib exports and migrant workers. Political cooperation has presented a means of countering the rise of Islamist radicals, who in the early 1990s were challenging the political regimes in most if not all of the North African nations. Finally, the UMA provides a regional forum for resolving bilateral conflicts, the most notable of which has been the Algerian-Moroccan dispute over the Western Sahara.
Algeria's relations with Morocco, its neighbor to the west and most significant Maghrib rival, have been dominated by the issue of self-determination for the Western Sahara. The national integrity of this former colonial territory has caused a deepseated antagonism and general mistrust between the two nations that has permeated all aspects of Moroccan-Algerian relations. Algeria's interest in the region dates back to the 1960s and 1970s when it joined Morocco in efforts to remove the Spanish from the territory. After Spain announced its intention to abandon the territory in 1975, the united front presented by the two nations quickly disintegrated, as a result of Morocco, and subsequently Mauritania, staking claims to the territory. Algeria, although not asserting any territorial ambitions of its own, was averse to the absorption of the territory by any of its neighbors and called for self-determination for the Saharan people. Before the Spanish evacuation, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania agreed to divide the territory and transfer the major part to Morocco and the remaining southern portion to Mauritania. This agreement violated a United Nations (UN) resolution that declared all historical claims on the part of Mauritania or Morocco to be insufficient to justify territorial absorption and drew heavy Algerian criticism.
Guerrilla movements inside the Saharan territory, most especially the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Río de Oro (Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el Hamra y Río de Oro--Polisario), having fought for Saharan independence since 1973, immediately proclaimed the creation of the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Algeria recognized this new self-proclaimed state in 1976, and has since pursued a determined diplomatic effort for international recognition of the territory; it has also supplied food, matériel, and training to the guerrillas. In 1979, after many years of extensive and fierce guerrilla warfare, Mauritania ceded its territorial claims and withdrew. Morocco quickly absorbed the vacated territory. Once the SADR gained diplomatic recognition from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and many other independent states, Morocco came under international pressure. As a result, the Moroccan government finally proposed a national referendum to determine the Saharan territory's sovereignty in 1981. The referendum was to be overseen by the OAU, but the proposal was quickly retracted by the Moroccan king when the OAU could not reach agreement over referendum procedures. In 1987 the Moroccan government again agreed to recognize the Polisario and to meet to "discuss their grievances." Algeria stipulated a solitary precondition for restoration of diplomatic relations--recognition of the Polisario and talks toward a definitive solution to the Western Saharan quagmire. Without a firm commitment from the Moroccan king, Algeria conceded and resumed diplomatic relations with Morocco in 1988. The political stalemate and the guerrilla fighting have continued almost uninterrupted since 1987. As of late 1993, UN efforts to mediate the conflict as prelude to a referendum on the territory seemed to be making modest headway.
Far less troublesome have been Algeria's relations with Tunisia. Smaller and in a more precarious position vis-à-vis Libya, Tunisia has consistently made efforts to align with Algeria. In the 1970s, Tunisia reversed its position on the Western Sahara so as not to antagonize Algerian authorities. Tunisia was the first nation to sign the Treaty of Fraternity and Concord with Algeria, in 1983. Throughout Algeria's independent history, it has joined in a number of economic ventures with Tunisia, including the transnational pipeline running from Algeria through Tunisia to Italy. In 1987 the departure from power in Tunisia of President Habib Bourguiba and his replacement by the more diplomatic Zine el Abidine Ben Ali brought the two nations closer again.
Similarly, relations with Libya have generally been amicable. Libyan support for the Polisario in the Western Sahara facilitated early postindependence Algerian relations with Libya. Libyan inclinations for full-scale political union, however, have obstructed formal political collaboration because Algeria has consistently backed away from such cooperation with its unpredictable neighbor. (A vote by the CCN on June 30, 1987, actually supported union between Libya and Algeria, but the proposal was tabled and later retracted by the FLN Central Committee after the heads of state failed to agree.) The Treaty of Oujda between Libya and Morocco, which represented a response to Algeria's Treaty of Fraternity and Concord with Tunisia, temporarily aggravated Algerian-Libyan relations by establishing a political divide in the region--Libya and Morocco on one side; Algeria, Tunisia, and Mauritania on the other. Finally, in 1988 Libya was invited to participate in the inter-Maghrib commission that was responsible for developing the North African union. The establishment of the UMA in February 1989 marked the first formal political or economic collaboration between the two neighbors.
Despite its membership and founding role in the OAU, Algeria remains a society much more closely affiliated with its Arab neighbors and counterparts than with the African countries to the south. In many countries, economic crisis and dependency on foreign aid have diminished the prospects of liberation and movements and hence also reduced the relevance of Algeria's liberation experience for those nations. Algeria has, however, resolved its remaining border conflicts with Mali, Niger, and Mauritania and generally maintains harmonious relations with its southern counterparts. Economic linkages remain fairly limited in the 1990s, constituting less than 1 percent of Algeria's total trade balance, although a new transnational highway running across the Sahara is expected to increase trade with sub-Saharan Africa.
In the early postindependence years, Algeria committed itself to the fight against colonialism and national suppression in sub-Saharan Africa. Its commitment was reflected in its support for the revolutionary movements in Zimbabwe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, and Namibia and in its condemnation of South Africa. Algeria has not officially retreated from its earlier ideological affinity for the revolutionary movements in Africa, but its role has become that of mentor rather than revolutionary front-runner. As Algeria has found its influence in the rest of Africa greatly reduced, its economic interests, ideological affiliation, and identification have fallen more in line with the Maghrib, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
Algeria has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to the OAU, although its interests in this regional organization have frequently been motivated more by tactical considerations than ideological affinity. Algeria has worked toward strengthening the structure and mediating capacities of the OAU, largely hoping to use the organization to further its own views on the issue of self-determination for the Western Sahara.
Algeria's national commitment to pan-Arabism and Arab causes throughout the Middle East and North Africa has resulted in an active role in the region. It joined the League of Arab States (Arab League) immediately following national independence in 1962. Since that time, Algeria's historical and ideological commitment to national revolution and self-determination has resulted in a strong affinity for the Palestinians in Israel, one of the Arab League's most compelling causes. Algeria has consistently supported the Palestinians and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and spurned the idea of diplomatic resolution with Israel. The Algerian government has steadily backed the mainstream faction of the PLO under the leadership of Yasir Arafat--hosting sessions of the PLO's National Council, intervening on its behalf in diplomatic negotiations with Syria and Lebanon, condemning internal divisions, and working toward the reconciliation of competing factions within the organization. Algeria supported Arafat's decision, denounced by Palestinian hard-liners, to sign a peace treaty with Israel in September 1993.
Algeria's energetic efforts on behalf of the PLO and the Palestinian cause have from time to time jeopardized its relations with other Arab nations (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt), many of which host significant Palestinian populations of their own. Despite Algerian indebtedness to Egypt for assistance during the revolutionary period, the Algerian government severed all relations with Egypt in the late 1970s over Egypt's peace treaty with Israel; relations gradually improved only with a change of leadership in both countries. More recently, Egypt's President Husni Mubarak and Algeria's President Chadli Benjedid found each other's moderate policies more palatable than those of their predecessors and jointly worked toward a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Similarly, Algeria incurred difficulties with Iraq over its involvement in the peace talks concluding the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq. Persistent calls by Algeria for an end to the conflict that it considered so damaging to the pan-Islamic movement led to a peace proposal that Iraq viewed as overly favorable to Iran. The proposal was alleged to have provoked Iraqi fighters to shoot down an Algerian aircraft carrying prominent Algerian officials involved in the peace talks, including the country's foreign minister.
Algeria shares a cultural identity with the Arab-Islamic nations but is separated by its distance from the rest of the Middle East. The closed nature of the authoritarian regime that governed Algeria for most of its independent history has precluded the development of mass enthusiasm for, or awareness of, external causes and conflicts.
The period of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and the subsequent retaliation by the largely Western coalition forces was the first time a significant portion of the Algerian public became mobilized over a foreign policy issue. Arab identification with Iraq drew support from the masses in unprecedented numbers. The overt support for Iraq on the part of the FIS and Ben Bella's Movement for Democracy in Algeria (Mouvement pour la Démocratie en Algérie) and a mass rally in support of Iraq's Saddam Husayn resulted in a fast reversal by the government from its original position condemning the Iraqi aggression. Changing state-society relations--a more active civil society and a more informed public--have meant new foreign policy directions characteristic of a government more responsive to its public. In late 1993, Algeria's foreign policy toward nations of the Middle East, however, had not changed significantly. Its relations with the West, especially its former colonizer, had changed markedly since the immediate post-independence period.
Early Algerian foreign policy caused it direct conflict with the Western powers as it struggled against colonialism. Since the latter 1970s, however, Algeria has determinedly pursued a policy of nonalignment that has facilitated relations with the West. Economic and political liberalization have likewise reduced the barriers inhibiting diplomatic relations with Europe and the United States. As Algeria moved toward a free-market economy and liberal democratic polity, its diplomatic objectives shifted away from the Soviet Union and toward the West. In a rather surprising turn of events, the military coup that upset the Algerian democratic experiment was tolerated, even approved of, by the West.
Historically, the United States and Algeria have had competing foreign policy objectives that have come closer only gradually. Algeria's commitment to strict socialism and to a global revolution against Western capitalism and imperialism antagonized relations with the United States, seen, in Algerian eyes, to embody all that the revolution scorned. United States maintenance of good relations with France precluded close ties with Algeria in the years during and following the War of Independence, although the United States sent an ambassador to Algeria in 1962. Algeria broke diplomatic relations with the United States in 1967, following the June 1967 war between Israel and most of its neighbors, and United States relations remained hostile throughout the next decade. United States intervention in Vietnam and other developing countries, Algerian sponsorship of guerrilla and radical revolutionary groups, United States sympathies for Morocco in the Western Sahara, and United States support for Israel all aggravated a fundamental ideological and political antagonism. Official relations resumed in the mid-1970s, although it was not until the late 1970s that relations normalized. By then Algerian leniency and passive tolerance for terrorist hijackers drew enough international criticism that the government modified its policy of allowing aid and landing clearance at Algerian airports for hijackers.
In the 1980s, increased United States demands for energy and a growing Algerian need for capital and technical assistance lessened tensions and resulted in increased interaction with the United States after the relative isolation from the West during the Boumediene years. Liberalization measures undertaken by Benjedid greatly facilitated the improved relations. In fact, an economic rapport with the West had been growing throughout the previous decade despite tense political relations. Algeria was becoming an important source of petroleum and natural gas for the United States. In 1980 the United States imported more than US$2.8 billion worth of oil from Algeria and was Algeria's largest export market.
Algeria's role as intermediary in the release of the fiftytwo United States hostages from Iran in January 1981 and its retreat from a militant role in the developing world as its domestic situation worsened opened the path to peaceful relations with the United States. Algeria's domestic situation was becoming increasingly critical because its traditional source of economic assistance, the Soviet Union, was threatened by internal problems. In search of alternative sources of aid, in 1990 Algeria received US$25.8 million in financial assistance and bought US$1.0 billion in imports from the United States, indicating that the United States had become an important international partner.
On January 13, 1992, following the military coup that upset Algeria's burgeoning democratic system, the United States issued a formal but low-key statement condemning the military takeover. Twenty-four hours later, Department of State spokesmen retracted the statement, calling for a peaceful resolution but offering no condemnation of the coup. Since then, the United States, like many of its Western counterparts, has appeared resigned to accepting a military dictatorship in Algeria. The military government has reaffirmed its commitment to liberalizing its domestic economy and opening the country to foreign trade, undoubtedly accounting for some of the Western support for the new Algerian regime.
Despite ambiguous sentiment in Algeria concerning its former colonial power, France has maintained a historically favored position in Algerian foreign relations. Algeria experienced a high level of dependency on France in the first years after the revolution and a conflicting desire to be free of that dependency. The preestablished trade links, the lack of experienced Algerian government officials, and the military presence provided for in the Evian Accords ending the War of Independence ensured the continuance of French influence. France supplied much-needed financial assistance, a steady supply of essential imports, and technical personnel.
This benevolent relationship was altered in the early Boumediene years when the Algerian government assumed control of French-owned petroleum extraction and pipeline interests and nationalized industrial and energy enterprises. French military units were almost immediately pulled out. France, although apparently willing to maintain cooperative relations, was overlooked as Algeria, eager to exploit its new independence, looked to other trade partners. Shortly afterward, Algerian interest in resuming French-Algerian relations resurfaced. Talks between Boumediene and the French government confirmed both countries' interest in restoring diplomatic relations. France wanted to preserve its privileged position in the strategically and economically important Algerian nation, and Algeria hoped to receive needed technical and financial assistance. French intervention in the Western Sahara against the Polisario and its lack of Algerian oil purchases, leading to a trade imbalance in the late 1970s strained relations and defeated efforts toward bilateral rapprochement. In 1983 Benjedid was the first Algerian leader to be invited to France on an official tour, but relations did not greatly improve.
Despite strained political relations, economic ties with France, particularly those related to oil and gas, have persisted throughout independent Algerian history. Nationalized Algerian gas companies, in attempting to equalize natural gas export prices with those of its neighbors, alienated French buyers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, however. Later gas agreements resulted in a vast growth of bilateral trade into the billions of dollars. Further disputes over natural gas pricing in the late 1980s led to a drastic drop in French-Algerian imports and exports. The former fell more than 10 billion French francs, the latter 12 billion French francs between 1985 and 1987. A new price accord in 1989 resurrected cooperative ties. The new agreement provided substantial French financial assistance to correct trade imbalances and guaranteed French purchasing commitments and Algerian oil and gas prices. French support for Benjedid's government throughout the difficult period in 1988 when the government appeared especially precarious and subsequent support for economic and political liberalization in Algeria expedited improved French-Algerian relations. Finally, rapprochement with Morocco, a number of joint economic ventures between France and Algeria, and the establishment of the UMA relaxed some of the remaining tensions.
One source of steady agitation has been the issue of Algerian emigration to France. French policies toward Algerian immigrants have been inconsistent, and French popular sentiment has generally been unfavorable toward its Arab population. The French government has vacillated between sweeping commitments to "codevelopment," involving extensive social networks for emigrant Algerian laborers, and support of strict regulations concerning work and study permits, random searches for legal papers, and expeditious deportation without appeal in the event of irregularities. North African communities in France remain relatively isolated, and chronic problems persist for Algerians trying to obtain housing, education, and employment. A number of racially motivated incidents occur each year between North African emigrants and French police and citizens.
Equally problematic has been Algeria's handling of the emigrant issue. The government has provided substantial educational, economic, and cultural assistance to the emigrant community but has been less consistent in defending emigrant workers' rights in France, frequently subordinating its own workers' interests to strategic diplomatic concerns in maintaining favorable relations with France. The rise of Islamism in Algeria and the subsequent crackdown on the Islamists by the government have had serious implications for both countries: record numbers of Algerian Islamists have fled to France, where their cultural dissimilarity as Arab Islamists is alien to the country.
In the early 1990s, nearly 20 percent of all Algerian exports and imports were destined for or originated from France. More than 1 million Algerians resided in France and there were numerous francophones in Algeria, creating a tremendous cultural overlap. French remained the language of instruction in most schools and the language used in more than two-thirds of all newspapers and periodicals and on numerous television programs. Algeria and France share a cultural background that transcends diplomatic maneuvers and has persisted throughout periods of "disenchantment" and strained relations. Over time, however, the arabization of Algeria and the increasing polarization of society between the francophone elite and the Arab masses have mobilized anti-French sentiment. Support for the arabization of Algerian society--including the elimination of French as the second national language and emphasis on an arabized education curriculum--and the recent success of the FIS indicate a growing fervor in Algeria for asserting an independent national identity. Such an identity emphasizes its Arab and Islamic cultural tradition rather than its French colonial past. However, France's support for the military regime that assumed power in early 1992 indicates that the cooperative relations between the two countries remain strong.
For obvious geographic reasons, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey share a privileged position in Algerian foreign relations. The economic and strategic significance of Algeria as a geographically adjacent and continentally prominent nation are relevant to the foreign policies of the Mediterranean nations. Whereas Algeria's relations with France have been complicated by confusing emotional and cultural complexities, its relations with the other Mediterranean countries have been primarily driven by economic factors. Both Spain and Italy have become substantial importers of Algerian gas--1989 figures indicated that Italy was Algeria's largest customer for natural gas. A transnational pipeline with three undersea pipes runs from Algeria through Tunisia to Italy, and work has begun on another. Greece and Turkey have both signed import agreements with Algeria's national hydrocarbons company, known as Sonatrach. Spain and Italy have extended sizable credit lines for Algerian imports of Spanish and Italian goods. Since the latter 1980s, Algeria has devoted increased attention toward regional concerns, making the geographical proximity of the Mediterranean nations of growing importance to Algeria's diplomatic and economic relations.
For the immediate preindependence and postindependence periods, the best political analysis is found in William B. Quandt's Revolution and Political Leadership: Algeria, 1954-1968 and David B. Ottaway and Marina Ottaway's, Algeria: The Politics of a Socialist Revolution. The Boumediene and Benjedid periods are covered from contrasting conceptual perspectives in John P. Entelis's Algeria: The Revolution Institutionalized, Mahfoud Bennoune's The Making of Contemporary Algeria, 1830-1987, and Rachid Tlemcani's State and Revolution in Algeria. The most recent analysis incorporating political, economic, and social events through the military coup d'état of January 1992 is the work edited by John P. Entelis and Philip C. Naylor, State and Society in Algeria.
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