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OxDem Report: Algeria Holds Elections

| 9 Comments

Algeria has just held what have been widely appraised as free and fair elections, following a decade-long civil war between military and Islamist factions which left as many as 150,000 dead.

Algeria’s political development reflects a frequent pattern in the region.

A single-party socialist state held power since independence with the support of the military, and had left the imams as its only credible opposition. The clerics and their supporters, looking to Iran as a model of Islamic democracy, in turn swept parliamentary elections when the government finally attempted to adopt liberal reforms amid criticism and economic failure in 1991. With the Islamic Salvation Front promising to adopt Shar’ia and easily having gained the requisite two-thirds majority to amend the constitution, the military stepped in to cancel the election’s result and outlaw the ISF.

Algeria’s civil war followed.

Holding on to power, the military-backed government banned members of the Islamic Salvation Front from taking part in politics and amended the Constitution to prohibit the formation of political parties based on religious belief. It also successfully encouraged formation of moderate Islamic parties to draw away much of the radicals’ support, a major such party being the Movement of the Society for Peace.

With the Islamist parties successfully marginalised, Abdelaziz Bouteflika ('Abd al-'Aziz Abu Tifliqa) was handily reelected (campaign website). Bouteflika, who enjoys the support of the military, was a leader in the Algerian War of Independence and also a former foreign minister.

The lesson to be learned from Algeria’s experience of democratization, some analysts say, is that in 1991 the country picked the wrong moment to open the doors to pluralism and then opened them too wide. This year, these observers say, reflected a more wisely chosen moment for holding elections, and a restriction of participation to parties which supported liberal democracy.

Liberal democracy still remains weak in Algeria - nearly three-quarters of Algeria's population is under the age of 30, and half of those below the age of 25 are unemployed. The Islamist movement enjoys particularly broad support among young unemployed males, and among the state’s greatest challenges will be to find a way to secure their support for, and participation within, the liberal democratic system.

9 Comments

Good news. Hope things work out, so the emigration can stop and who knows, maybe Algerians can return home from Europe.

Not until the Algerian economy improves, and stability has been demonstrated for a while.

And even then, many "Algerians" will have no desire to leave Europe, which is home as far as they're concerned.

I lived there as a expat kid back in the late 70's. Everyone I met(or could at least converse with in my bad French) seemingly hated the French with a passion. Those who could do so would speak English. Living there left QUITE an impression on me......

Nice to see a ray of hope somewhere. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

"...government banned members of the Islamic Salvation Front from taking part in politics and amended the Constitution to prohibit the formation of political parties based on religious belief."

Sounds like a great idea for Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm stationed in Algeria right now- a few comments:
1) Algeria is definitely a bright spot and getting brighter. It's a phenomenal country with phenomenal people and despite it's problems (where aren't there problems?) look for Algeria to be a major regional power over the next 10 to 15 years (and mostly democratic to boot).
2) They are a great ally in the war on terror- and have been fighting international terrorists all by themselves for the last 12 years and are happy to finally get our support. Incidentally- if you wonder why you hear about Algerian terrorists around the world- it's because it's not safe for them back in Algeria where they are relentless hunted!
3) Their military is professional and competent (a refreshing assessment for those familiar with other 'Arab' militaries) and moreover- looking to make postitive changes away from their somewhat spotted past (yes- the military did go overboard in their fight against terrorism).
4) On the minus side- the elections weren't quite as fair as has been announced. Algerian TV was BTV (Boutaflika TV: all Boutaflika, all the time) for the month prior to the election. So- though he won the election (I'm still a little skeptical of his 83% landslide) he had the coffers of the government and a monopoly on TV to run his campaign.
5) Overall: they are the most free country in the Arab world, the have a great military actively engaged in the war on terror, they have an improving economy with excellent reserves, and they have an educated population all dying to learn English and work with Americans.

I'm stationed in Algeria right now- a few comments:
1) Algeria is definitely a bright spot and getting brighter. It's a phenomenal country with phenomenal people and despite it's problems (where aren't there problems?) look for Algeria to be a major regional power over the next 10 to 15 years (and mostly democratic to boot).
2) They are a great ally in the war on terror- and have been fighting international terrorists all by themselves for the last 12 years and are happy to finally get our support. Incidentally- if you wonder why you hear about Algerian terrorists around the world- it's because it's not safe for them back in Algeria where they are relentless hunted!
3) Their military is professional and competent (a refreshing assessment for those familiar with other 'Arab' militaries) and moreover- looking to make postitive changes away from their somewhat spotted past (yes- the military did go overboard in their fight against terrorism).
4) On the minus side- the elections weren't quite as fair as has been announced. Algerian TV was BTV (Boutaflika TV: all Boutaflika, all the time) for the month prior to the election. So- though he won the election (I'm still a little skeptical of his 83% landslide) he had the coffers of the government and a monopoly on TV to run his campaign.
5) Overall: they are the most free country in the Arab world, the have a great military actively engaged in the war on terror, they have an improving economy with excellent reserves, and they have an educated population all dying to learn English and work with Americans.

Super !

Now it seem that countries that fight democracy are turned to democracies and military-run states seem to enjoy a good protection from the "Democratic West" (see turkey, see algeria, ee Irak, see Libya...) as long as they punish the free will of their own people...If they have also oil then BINGO !! Joker for the dictator !!
Sad reality but this is the facts.

Abdel,

I think you misread Algeria completely. It really has turned over a new leaf- there is more to be done, but the opposition voice is strong. The 'will of the people' in 1991 and 1992 didn't include having the FIS rig local elections, threaten voters with death, or announce the ever popular 'one man, one vote, one time' end to democracy that the Islamists advocated. The 'will of the people' also didn't include having the Islamists committ atrocities that would've made the SS blush against villagers that didn't support them. No one...NO ONE...is prepared to defend 'Le Pouvoir' in Algeria, but Algerians are more than happy to pick up the pieces of their country after the Islamists raped it, and move forward. It's only now, AFTER life is more free and elections are more fair that the US is engaging with Algeria. I've come to the opposite conclusion as you have based on my own personal experience: countries that support the will of the people attract far more support and investment from the US than those that repress their people.

Sapper

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