Algeria is a country located in the region of Northern Africa. Algeria’s politics have been dominated for half a century by the military and the National Liberation Front (FLN), which fought before the independence war in 1962 against a guerrilla war against colonial power France. Following a popular protest storm, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has led the government since 1999, left the post for 2019. A new president has been elected, but the regime’s critics do not see it as a real change of power.
Algeria has had what is called a national unity government since the late 1990s, with authoritarian rule dominated by presidential and security services. In fact, Parliament has no greater influence.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Algeria, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
FLN managed to maintain its grip on power during the 2011 uprising that caused major convulsions in many other countries in the region. This is despite the fact that Algeria, like them, is characterized by both the exercise of authoritarian power and widespread marginalization of large population groups. Dissatisfaction with shortcomings in the social system and financial difficulties was already fermented (see Modern History). But the protests demanding political reform that also erupted in Algeria were soon dampened, by a combination of hard-fought security forces and political initiatives to dampen frustration.
The fact that the protests in 2011 did not gain the same power as in other countries was also due to Algeria still recovering from the 1990s civil war between the state power and Islamists. The experience of the “black decade” and fear of new outbreaks of violence are believed to have contributed to the resignation of the regime’s resignation.
Amendments to the Constitution
Among other things, the regime promised democratization of the political system and increased legal certainty. Social, cultural and political demands would be met through amendments to the Constitution. Amendments to, among other things, media and electoral laws were approved in 2012, but only in early 2016 did Parliament adopt the constitutional amendments. They came about after a lengthy process that was carried out without much support in the depth of the people. According to critics, the result was cosmetic adjustments that did not fundamentally change power relations.
Although protests are commonplace, opposition parties have found it difficult to gain a foothold in the political debate. Ahead of the 2012 parliamentary elections, moderate Islamists made an effort to rally, likely inspired by successes for like-minded parties in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. The Social Movement for Peace (MSP) left the government coalition with FLN and its support party Democratic National Assembly (RND), and formed the Green Algeria Alliance with two other relatively moderate Islamist parties (see Political system). But unlike neighboring countries, Islamists did not see success. Instead, according to the official election results, FLN progressed strongly and received almost half of the mandate on its own. Together with the coalition partner RND, FLN gained its own majority, while the Green Algeria Alliance was only supported by six percent of voters. The Islamists accused the government of cheating and independent observers questioned the outcome.
Before the 2017 parliamentary elections, the Islamists regrouped into new alliances, but the result was once again their own majority for FLN and RND, and limited success for the Islamists.
Continued terrorist acts
In parallel with the political protests, armed Islamists continued to carry out attacks. In particular, the al-Qaeda group in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim; see Modern History) has been active through terrorist acts against Algerian security forces, with dozens dead as a result. The armed groups did not appear to pose a serious threat to the state and society during the 2000s, but civil war in neighboring Libya and Mali has led Aqim to gain access to more and more advanced weapons (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
A bloody hostage frame in 2013 showed that instability in neighboring countries could increase the threat. Armed Islamists entered a natural gas plant in In Amenas, near the border with Libya, and held hundreds of Algerian and foreign workers hostage for several days. At least 39 foreigners and 29 of the perpetrators lost their lives. The military reportedly killed over 200 Islamists in the assault during the year.
The Bouteflika brothers gone
In 2013, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika suffered from what was described as a minor stroke. He sought care abroad, and the few times he appeared in public life it became apparent that the illness had given him both disability and speech difficulties.
It aroused both consternation and anger when it was announced that Bouteflika was a candidate in the 2014 presidential election. He hardly participated in the electoral movement at all. Still, according to official data, the then 77-year-old Bouteflika won 81.5 percent of the vote. The closest challenger Ali Benflis dismissed the election results, claiming that “serious irregularities” had taken place. He later presented a comprehensive report with information that would substantiate allegations of cheating.
Voter turnout was reported to be just under 52 per cent, significantly lower than the close to 75 percent reported in the 2009 presidential election. Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, the situation was repeated, this time with a growing wave of protest that could not be silenced.
At several elections in recent decades, the approach has been that an elite of influential people, not least in the state’s “security apparatus”, have agreed in advance on who to stand behind, but too much transparency. Then it did not upset Bouteflika, who had a strong position as an old hero of liberty and could also take on the honor of curbing the violence that raged in 1991-2002. Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, which looked to give Bouteflika a fifth term, several parties chose to advocate a boycott. But what caused Bouteflika to first withdraw his candidacy and then resign before his fourth term expired were nationwide demonstrations with broad popular support.
The protests, which began in February, continued throughout 2019, every Friday but also every Tuesday, until the corona pandemic in March 2020 cleared the streets. The popular wrath has not been silenced by government reform and reform promises on the part of the regime, including constitutional amendments to be submitted to a referendum. Algerian experts have interpreted the plans as the regime’s intention to continue to hold the clock.
Domestic policy has for several years been characterized by uncertainty over who will have the power after Bouteflika. The presidential election that must be held after the departure of Bouteflika was carried out on December 12, 2019. As winner, Abdelmadjid Tebboune was first proclaimed, with ministerial experience from Bouteflika’s time as president. The protest movement already dismissed the election in advance, as everyone who was allowed to run had had connections with the elite around Bouteflika. Voter turnout, not even 40 percent, was the lowest recorded in an Algerian presidential election.
One sensitive issue is the balance of power between the civilian leaders on the one hand and the military and the security apparatus on the other. From 2013 Bouteflika gradually limited the powerful intelligence service DRS influence and in 2016 it was declared that DRS was dissolved and replaced by three different security services directly subordinate to the president. Thus, things have happened to the elite who have become accustomed to being royalists, even though the parties in the government coalition have publicly proved loyal to the circle around Bouteflika.
During Bouteflika’s illness, his brother and adviser Said was perceived as the real ruler. Whether Said Bouteflika aimed for the leadership post for his own part has not been known, but he was surprisingly arrested in May 2019 and after being sentenced to a long prison sentence, he appears to have been “harmless” in the ongoing fight for power. The one who emerged as most actionable in 2019 was instead Army Chief Ahmed Gaïd Salah, but he died at the end of the year.
Uncertainty is still created by a drastic fall in revenues from the oil and gas industry that occurred in 2014-2015 when world market prices collapsed, and have been fueled by a price war on oil that Saudi Arabia started in 2020 (to capture new market shares after China’s demand for oil decreased). The dissatisfaction is widespread among residents with corruption and financial neglect and declining revenues have made it more difficult for the regime to keep down protests by subsidizing basic goods, improving social services, raising public sector wages and investing in trying to curb the housing crisis (see Economic overview).
Read more about the ongoing development in the Calendar.
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FACTS – POLITICS
al-Jumhuriyya al-jazairiyya al-dimuqratiyya al-shaabiyya/Democratic People’s Republic of Algeria
republic, unitary state
Head of State
Abdelmadjid Tebboune (2019–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad (2019–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
National Liberation Front (FLN) 164, Democratic National Assembly (RND) 97, Social Movement for Peace-Front for Change 33, Assembly for Hope Algeria 19, Ennahda-FJD 15, Socialist Front 14, Future Front 14, Others 106 (2017)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
National Liberation Front (FLN) 220, Democratic National Assembly (RND) 68, Green Algeria Alliance 48, Socialist Front 21, Labor Party 20, others 85 (2012)
just over 39% in the 2019 presidential election, 38% in the 2017 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2022, presidential elections 2024