Journal Essay

Algeria's Path to Reform: Authentic Change?

Yahia H. Zoubir and Ahmed Aghrout

Summer 2012, Volume XIX, Number 2

Dr. Zoubir is professor of international relations and international management and director of Research in Geopolitics at EUROMED MANAGEMENT, Marseille School of Management, France. Dr. Aghrout is a research fellow with the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at the University of Salford in the United Kingdom.

When the uprising erupted in Tunisia, Algeria was expected to follow suit. It presented all the ingredients for a social explosion: corruption, nepotism, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, restricted freedoms, housing shortages and bad governance. Social malaise was evident among most of the social strata, the youth in particular. The country's dire socioeconomic conditions, coupled with the governmental paralysis mainly owing to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's illness, made Algeria the best contender for revolt. Against all odds, the regime has remained in place, and no major event, save for some cyclical riots, has come to upset the decade-long status quo. Other regimes shared the fate of Tunisia. Those that withstood the storm have been forced to either repress grassroots movements (Bahrain) or introduce reforms in order to appease them. The mantra the regime has endlessly repeated is that Algeria is an "exception"; it actually appeared more stable than most MENA countries. The regime understands, however, that the storm sweeping through the region will sooner or later affect it, regardless of the funds it has generously distributed to obtain social peace. The regime has become cognizant of the brutality with which Qadhafi in Libya was brought down and the specter of civil war that is looming over Syria. It also noted that its Western neighbor, Morocco, was able to disarm the "20 February" movement by introducing reforms, attenuating attempts to destabilize the monarchy. The fact that the Islamist victory at the polls in Morocco did not fundamentally change the monarchical system,1 and that Tunisia is showing signs of burgeoning "democracy," compelled the regime to devise a survival strategy featuring a modicum of change. This was described as momentous, but, as things stand now, this seems far from the case. These reforms, mostly on paper, constitute no real breakthrough and are unlikely to change the fundamental nature of the political system put in place 50 years ago. The regime seems to be reproducing the scheme it devised following the riots of October 1988.

ALGERIAN EXCEPTIONALISM?

Undeniably, Algeria witnessed a major upheaval in October 1988 that may well be considered the first case of what has become known as the "Arab Spring." Unparalleled in the country's post-independence era, this popular revolt has not resulted in the fulfillment of the aspirations of Algerians. In the beginning, this process prompted the introduction of political reforms, ending the single-party system under the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) and widening political participation.2 The opening of the political system also eased restrictions on freedom of expression, association and organization. As a result, several independent national and regional newspapers as well as diverse civil-society organizations were established.3 These transformations were seen as milestones on the road to democratic rule. However, this promising political liberalization process was short-lived. The moment it became evident that the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) was about to achieve a sweeping victory following the first round of balloting in January 1992, the elections were invalidated by the military-dominated High Security Council.

What has marked the country's political development since the mid-1990s following the reinstatement of an institutional process through the holding of regular elections is an incipient multiparty political system. Yet this has resulted in neither a full-fledged authoritarian state nor a viable democracy, but a "façade democracy."4 Even a procedural democracy has not been entirely attained. This would entail the "protection of a core cluster of political rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the right to vote and run for office in free, fair and periodic elections."5 In terms of political rights, it is obvious that there has been no remarkable progress. On the contrary, these rights have been subjected to a whole array of government restrictions, from judicial harassment of the media to limitations on freedom of assembly and association.6 In sum, as in other MENA countries, the Algerian regime succeeded in instituting a "new authoritarianism."7

Widespread public disenchantment with the political process was reflected in low turnout in elections since 1995,8 elections that have been marred by irregularities, including allegations of vote rigging and opposition boycotts. Moreover, voters have lost faith in these elections and no longer believe that taking part would effect significant change. Following the elimination of the FIS and the neutralization of the oldest opposition party, the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS), there remains no genuine legal opposition. The various political parties lack credibility, influence and legitimacy. Polls published in the press have shown that the majority did not believe that any of the parties could solve Algeria's socioeconomic and political problems. The most recent poll indicates that 75 percent have no trust in the parliament.9 This lack of trust, combined with the factors mentioned above, explains the public apathy toward political affairs, the reestablishment of civil peace notwithstanding. The vast majority of Algerians consider the Assemblée Populaire Nationale (National Popular Assembly, APN) a submissive institution with insignificant power whose members defend their own interests and those of their clients.

The most recent vote was the April 2009 presidential election. It was preceded by constitutional amendments, the most important of which was the removal of the two-term limit on the presidency.10 This made it possible for the incumbent, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to stand for a third five-year term (2009-14),11 in spite of his poor health and mixed record. This commitment to the status quo has been the principal driver of revolt in a number of Arab countries against gerontocratic authoritarian regimes.

Algeria has until now been immune from the popular uprisings that have rocked several of these countries. However, for a number of years, sporadic and localized strikes, protests and riots12 have become an integral part of the social landscape, laying bare the causes of popular resentment: deteriorating purchasing power, low wages, unemployment and poor housing. The authorities have pledged to create three million jobs and build one million housing units in a five-year (2010-14) public investment plan.

A wave of more violent protests at the beginning of January 2011 — the "cooking oil and sugar" riots — was triggered by soaring prices of staples, some of which rose by as much as 30 percent. These protests coincided with similar popular unrest in neighboring Tunisia.13 In order to stem the tide, the government, in an emergency meeting on January 8, slashed taxes on cooking oil and sugar by 41 percent.14

The eruption of these riots was, to a great extent, related to the population's immediate problems. However, there was another factor: the authorities' arrogant and contemptuous attitude towards ordinary people, known locally as hogra. This situation reinforced frustration with the regime. The various cases of self-immolation, reported across the country before and after these protests, were provoked by the authorities' apathy towards people's basic demands.15 Hogra "is the core grievance uniting the rough-hewn rioters of January with the more polite protesters of February."16

Clearly, the early January riots had, at least on the surface, more to do with socioeconomic deprivation than political demands. The period of relative calm experienced following these brief riots was short-lived, though. Indeed, soon afterward, in an attempt to emulate the Tunisian example — notably after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled and fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 — the protest movement took a new turn, with the setting up on January 21 of the Coordination Nationale pour le Changement et la Démocratie (National Co-ordination for Change and Democracy, CNCD). Founded as an umbrella rather than an alliance, it incorporated diverse political parties, civil-society organizations and independent trade unions.17

While seeking to bring about democratic regime change, the CNCD had three immediate demands: the removal of the country's 19-year-old state of emergency, promulgated in February 1992 after the cancellation of the elections the previous month; the lifting of restrictions on the media and political participation; and the release of those arrested as a result of popular protests.18 The initiators of this movement intended to bring the "democratic opposition" together and unite the forces favoring change, so as to enable Algeria to emerge from its "sclerotic situation" and "continuous shrinking spaces for freedom."19

The CNCD called for a mass protest march on February 12 in the capital. The local authorities (the wilaya of Algiers) on February 7 refused permission to hold the march on grounds of "public order."20 This prompted a reaction from Amnesty International calling for Algerians to "be allowed to express themselves freely and hold peaceful protests in Algiers and elsewhere."21 The CNCD held to its decision to demonstrate as initially planned, and its march was thwarted with a massive police deployment.22 This did not deter the CNCD; one of its main founders, the 90-year-old human-rights activist Ali Yahia Abdenour, vowed to hold further protest marches every Saturday in Algiers. Reacting to Bouteflika's televised speech of April 15 announcing reforms, Abdenour even claimed at a press conference on April 24, 2011, that Article 88 of the constitution should be invoked to remove the president from power:23 "The departure of the president is an absolute imperative (…) if he is acknowledged as not being able to carry out his functions; it will be up to the army to take over his responsibility."24 Many political and human-rights activists were disappointed with Abdenour's statement since it amounted to a clear invitation to a coup d'état. The 1992 military intervention remains a vivid reminder not only of the horrors the Algerian people endured during a decade-long civil conflict but, more important, the military's aborting of a nascent democratic experiment.

The CNCD tried to organize several more protest marches but failed to gain momentum. The divisions within the group regarding its raison d'être caused it to split into two factions (CNCD/Political Parties and CNCD/Civil-society Organizations) just a month after its establishment. CNCD/Political Parties, which vowed to continue the protest campaign, faced a government crackdown that compromised its capacity to mobilize. As a result, the decision was taken on June 23 to suspend protest marches after more than 15 vain attempts.25 Nonetheless, strikes, demonstrations and sit-ins continued to affect a wide range of sectors. Over localized or single-issue grievances, these forms of protest have been staged by medical workers, teachers/lecturers, students, retired military personnel, local government employees, post-office staff and the unemployed. For the most part, demands have revolved around wages and working conditions, jobs and housing. They have also centered, however, on the existence of corruption, bad governance and nepotism.

The evolution of the 2011 protest movement in Algeria revealed that there was no discernible coordination of socioeconomic and political grievances, but rather two distinct movements articulating separate sets of demands. The question arises of why the protest movement failed to gain momentum and develop into a unified reform movement. Perhaps one needs to look back at the country's recent past. In addition to waging one of the most brutal and bloody wars of independence in the twentieth century (1954-62), Algeria was also the first Arab country to experience a popular uprising (October 1988). This latter event, as underlined earlier, brought about constitutional reforms and substantive political liberalization that had no parallel in any other Arab country at the time.26 The emergence of the FIS in 1989, however, derailed prospects for a genuine democratic transition. The ideology that drove it and the intentions of its most radical members, who sought to impose their will and delegitimize any other party, constituted the biggest obstacle to the evolution of democracy.27 Worse still, the threats by its members against the regime and secular segments of society provided the rationale for the abrupt cancellation of national elections. The ensuing decade-long civil conflict between government forces and the various armed Islamist guerrilla groups28 left an indelible mark on the psyche of large segments of society. "Even today," wrote The Telegraph, "Algeria has not recovered. As a society, it is suffering from a kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome."29 Hence Algerians are still fearful of mounting a large protest movement to topple the current regime.The escalation of the conflict in Libya and the continued instability since Qadhafi's fall, as well as the brutal repression in Syria, have also played a part in reinforcing this fear.

Another factor that can be adduced to explain what the media and some academics have come to label the "Algerian exception" is the existence of a weak and divided opposition, detached from the population and active only for the duration of electoral campaigns. The opposition has been unable to evolve into a real political force.

In addition, the government's handling of the situation as it was unfolding prevented attempts to organize a larger protest movement. Some observers have contended that the decision to keep socioeconomic and political demands separate helps authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes stay in power, even with high levels of popular discontent.30 The fact that there was no coordination between the disparate protest groups has made it easier for the government to respond with a combination of appeasement and force. On the one hand, the authorities have been using oil windfalls in their bid to ward off the threat of mass unrest. Algeria's financial reserves — estimated at more than $182 billion as of the end of December 201131 — have provided it with significant room for maneuver in addressing popular anger. The authorities have increased expenditures by awarding pay increases, subsidizing basic foodstuffs, and taking measures aimed at boosting investment and creating jobs. The cost is reflected in the government-adopted supplementary financial law of 2011, which was expected to increase public spending by 25 percent and result in a budget deficit of almost 34 percent of GDP.32 In a similar vein, the recently adopted 2012 financial law, which predicts a deficit of more than 24 percent of GDP, shows the government's intention to carry on with its policy of buying social peace by allocating over 17 percent of expenditure to this purpose.

Besides these redistributive transfers, the authorities have also resorted to direct intervention by using force to crack down on those they regard as hard protesters. The deployment of 30,000 police officers to quell the CNCD demonstration on February 12, 2011, was a very large show of force. While continuing to take a tougher line on protests, the authorities also made some political concessions, lifting the state of emergency and promising political reforms.

THE REFORM PACKAGE

The state of emergency put in place immediately after the January 1992 annulment of the second round of the country's first multiparty legislative elections was constantly denounced by opposition groups and human-rights organizations. With violence having abated in the country in recent years, these groups argued that maintaining emergency rules was a stratagem used to justify the restriction or suppression of civil liberties. Thus it was unsurprising to see that the ending of the 19-year emergency law became one of the main rallying points for protesters. These demonstrations, coupled with uprisings taking place in MENA, prompted the authorities to take the decision to revoke it. At the council of ministers meeting held on February 3, Bouteflika announced the imminent lifting of the state of emergency. The announcement came two days after a group of 21 members of parliament from Islamist and secular parties joined forces and submitted a draft bill to the APN requesting the repeal of the emergency law.33

The next cabinet meeting, which took place on February 22, adopted a number of legislative bills, including the text that ended the state of emergency.34 The official announcement to end it was met with mixed reactions.35 In reality, the legislation adopted to remove the state of emergency was also accompanied by new legislation permitting the armed forces to continue their mission, as defined under the emergency rules, to fight terrorism and subversion.36 Thus, the military has kept its special powers and prerogatives. In addition, a June 2001 order — part of the emergency rules apparently never made public — has remained in force. This ruling prohibits protest demonstrations in the capital, allowing the authorities to prevent several attempts at protest marches.

Bouteflika is reported to have said that the removal of the state of emergency "will be a new page opened on the path to comprehensive reforms, which cannot be fruitful in the absence of political reforms." He also pointed to the need for "broad political reforms," but gave no details regarding their nature, scope or content.37 It was not until April 15 that he revealed, in a long-awaited speech on state television, his reform roadmap: amendment of the constitution as well as revision of the legislative framework pertaining to elections, political parties and associations, women's participation in public life, and the media.38 Bouteflika also announced the setting up of the Commission Nationale de Consultations sur les Réformes Politiques (National Commission for Consultations on Political Reforms, CNCRP) to hold consultations with various political forces and figures, gather views on the proposed package of reforms and make proposals to the president.

Abdelkader Bensalah, speaker of the upper house of parliament, Conseil de la Nation, was appointed chairman along with two co-chairs, retired General-Major Mohamed Touati and Mohamed Ali Boughazi, who both serve as Bouteflika's personal advisers. Once Bouteflika had clarified, at the council of ministers of May 2, the agenda for political and constitutional reforms, the consultation process was launched on May 21. Banned from participation were those the authorities call the "proponents of violence" (in reference to members of the banned FIS). For a month, the CNCRP received more than 200 political parties, national figures, trade unionists and civil-society organizations. Political parties within the Alliance Présidentielle have all come out in support of the initiative.39 Almost all of those who took part in these consultations were unanimous in pointing to the need for revision of the constitution, a process regarded as a "prelude to further democracy and freedom." Restricting the presidential mandate to two terms (as inscribed in the 1996 constitution) and promoting alternation of power were also issues that many of the participants emphasized as advancing better governance practices. Others advocated the establishment of a provisional government and a constituent assembly to carry out the reform package, a suggestion forcefully rejected by the regime.

The regime-initiated debate about the reforms was marred by disagreements. Several of the key national personalities, political parties and civil-society groups turned down the CNCRP invitation to take part in consultations. Veteran political personalities, such as former presidents (Chadli Benjedid, Ali Kafi and Liamine Zeroual) and prime ministers (Mokdad Sifi, Mouloud Hamrouche, Ahmed Benbitour, and Ali Benflis), all declined. Some have kept silent; others have either publicly criticized the whole process or argued for a wider national dialogue. For instance, Hocine Aït Ahmed, the historic leader of the FFS, saw the consultation process as a political maneuver to buy time during a period of heightened social tensions. His party's adherents branded the process a "political circus."40 Like the FFS, other opposition parties — the RCD, Ahd 54 (Generation 54) and the Parti Socialiste des Travailleurs (Socialist Workers' Party, PST) — also boycotted the talks.41 The RCD supporters called the regime's initiative a "monologue against change" and "an insult to the suffering and anger of Algerians who aspire to dignity, freedom and prosperity."42

At the conclusion of its consultative work on June 21, the CNCRP handed over the final report to Bouteflika. After the council of ministers discussed it at its meeting in July, it instructed the government to flesh out draft laws concerning the electoral system, women's representation in elected bodies, cases of incompatibility with the parliamentary mandate, political parties, associations and information. The council endorsed the resulting proposed pieces of legislation during meetings on August 28 and September 11-12, and they were debated and approved by both houses of the parliament during the autumn session.43

It may be too soon to make any authoritative judgment about the regime's current agenda for reform. Yet there is scope for a number of preliminary conclusions. First, the proposed legislative package, as promoted by its proponents, is aimed at "deepening the democratic process." From the regime's perspective, it looks as if the matter at stake is just about legislation, whether amending existing laws or enacting new ones, to set the country on the path to democratization. Apart from two new pieces of legislation — women's representation in elected institutions and cases of incompatibility with parliamentary mandate — the remaining legislative texts, already on the books,44 did not require a major overhaul, just minor amendments to these texts. Hence what might have been an ordinary process of legislation has been hailed by the regime as a landmark step towards democratic change. In addition, what is at stake here has less to do with the legal framework — some of which has been there for more than two decades — than it does with the regime's failure to enforce rules it has passed, a tactic it has used for decades to delay transformation of the system. As a keen observer of the Algerian scene has put it, "The envisaged reform comes down to a pointless exercise that is to replace laws that are not respected with others that will not be either."45

Next, the "heated" parliamentary debate over the political-reform package brought to the surface conflicting partisan predilections among the major political forces represented in the legislature. It is worth noting that there was no public debate in connection with these reforms, even if the authorities praised themselves for having incorporated proposals made by those who were invited to Bensalah's Commission (CNCRP). The parliamentary debate was dominated by each party's seeking to promote its partisan political interests. The proposed draft electoral bill was decried by the FLN, especially articles relating to "prohibition of political nomadism" (67) and "conditions for cabinet ministers running for elected offices" (93). These were the main provisions that generated parliamentary debate.

The irony is that this same text and others, including the bill on women's political representation, had previously been approved by the cabinet (August 28, 2011), in which the FLN holds a third of the positions. The FLN, supported by the RND, its partner in the Alliance Présidentielle,46 managed to get the bill passed in parliament with both provisions dropped.47 A stipulation prohibiting "crossing the floor" (changing party affiliation) was backed by several opposition parties, such as the Parti des Travailleurs (Workers'Party, PT) and the Front National Algérien (National Algerian Front, FNA). The latter suffered the majority of the defections during the current legislature, mostly to the FLN and the RND.48 These governing parties also opposed the proviso compelling ministers wishing to stand for election to resign from their positions three months before the polling. This was seen by the opposition as favoring the ruling parties, whose ministers could make use of state/government machinery during electioneering, as was claimed to have taken place during previous elections.49 Thus, because of this competitive advantage, the principle of equal opportunity for all parties/candidates was sacrificed.

The bill on women's political representation also suffered a similar fate. In its original version, it proposed electoral-list quotas for women of 33 percent — a "critical minority" — to correct their under-representation.50 By way of illustration, at the present time, the APN consists of only 7.7 percent women, the Senate, less than 5 percent.51 The Inter-Parliamentary Union ranked Algeria 117 in the proportion of women in parliament in 2011.52 Again, the two ruling parties (FLN and RND) amended this bill so that the number of elected female deputies will be directly proportional to the number of seats in each constituency.53 This amendment can be seen as a real setback for women's right to better political representation, which the initial draft bill attempted to achieve through what may be termed "affirmative action."

As a final point, the way the political parties have dealt with the proposed pieces of legislation suggests that the promised reforms may well not meet popular expectations. The dominant governing coalition, and the FLN and RND in particular, have dealt the final blow to what was depicted as the president's "half measures" and "illusion of change."54 It is obvious that the stand taken by these parties reflects their endeavor to preserve, if not strengthen, the strategic advantage they have enjoyed without losing sight of the forthcoming elections (legislative in May 2012 and presidential in 2014). Clearly, the ruling coalition does not want to see future elections impose a new political map and create a new majority. Put differently, the rejection of some of the opposition parties' proposal to replace the current legislature with an elected constituent assembly, as well as the amendments made to the original bills, seek to perpetuate the status quo.

The present legislature has, since its election in 2007, suffered from a legitimacy deficit.55 In addition, a major reason for its loss of credibility is its reputation for acting as a rubber stamp for the regime. With a discredited legislative assembly, it is expected that the legislation passed regarding the proposed political reforms could not prove convincing to the average citizen, let alone to the opposition groups.

NEW POLITICAL PARTIES

The reforms brought about after the 1988 riots provided a "democratic" façade so the regime could enjoy some degree of legitimacy and perpetuate its power. As mentioned above, a plethora of parties emerged, some of which have become parties of the administration (FLN, RND, and MSP).56 Although hopes were high for the development of a democratic polity, the regime and the FLN had encouraged the proliferation of parties to block the emergence of organized, well-supported political rivals. Undoubtedly, although some parties reflected genuine ideological orientations that could challenge the regime and endeavor to conquer state power,57 the strategy of the authorities was to prevent the emergence of political forces it could not control. Also, the banning and disbanding of the FIS marked the end of what might have been genuine political-party opposition in Algeria even if, despite the bloody conflict of the 1990s, political parties continued to exist. Whether secular, nationalist or Islamist, these parties participated in the successive municipal and legislative elections that took place in 1997, 2002 and 2007. Many of them (FLN, RND, El Islah/MRN/MI, Hamas/HMS/MSP, PT, FNA, Ennahda (MN), RCD, PRA, MEN, UDR, and the MJD) have held seats in the APN. Yet, the existence of this multitude of parties has not fostered citizens' participation in political life.

However, in a total surprise, the regime, which had authorized only one party (the FNA) since 1999, decided to allow for the creation of more parties and to increase the number of seats in the parliament. This was also astonishing because, as seen earlier, for more than a decade political life in the country had been basically frozen. The room for maneuver of independent parties has been restricted, particularly since access to the state-owned media was almost impossible. A few party leaders were fortunate to have an op-ed article or an interview in one of the independent newspapers, but this had little impact on the conditions of their constituents, let alone on the rest of the citizens, who have been practically barred from active political life and pushed into "the political desert." It is within this context that a new law58 authorized, in December 2011, the creation of new parties. Given the staunch refusal by the authorities to authorize any new party under Bouteflika's rule, the shift was most probably caused by the Arab Spring, official statements to the contrary notwithstanding. By April 2012, 21 new political parties had been approved. Forty-four political parties have been allowed to participate in the legislative election of May 10, 2012.59 Table 1 below provides a succinct roster of the new parties.


Table 1: Newly-Established Political Parties

Name

Nature

President

Background

Origin

Parti de la Liberté et la Justice (PLJ)

Islamist (claims also to be nationalist)

Mohamed Saïd

Presidential candidate 2009

 

Front de la Justice et du Développement (FJD - El Adala)

Islamist

Abdallah Djaballah

Presidential candidate 1999; 2004

Dissident of Nahda; El-Islah

Jil Jadid (JJ)

Nationalist-Islamist

Sofiane Djilali

Former secretary-general of PRA (founded by Nourredine Boukrouh in 1990)

Dissident of Parti du Renouveau algérien

Front National pour la Justice Sociale (FNJS)

Nationalist

Khaled Bounedjma

Father accused of being a collaborator with French colonialists (a harki)

Martyrs' children association (CNEC)

Front de l'Algérie Nouvelle (FAN)

Islamist

Djamel Benabdeslam

In charge of communications for El-Islah party

Dissident of Islah; Former deputy/ was member of Ennahda and, later, of El Islah

Front El-Moustakbal (FM) 

Nationalist

Belaid Abdelaziz

FLN deputy in APN

Dissident of National Liberation Front (FLN)

Parti des Jeunes (PJ)

Nationalist

Hamana Boucharma

NA

Dissident of National Rally for Democracy

Parti El-Karama (PK) 

Nationalist, with Islamic references

Mohamed Benhammou

NA

Dissident of Front National Algérien

Union des Forces Démocratiques Sociales (UFDS) 

Nationalist

Noureddine Bahbouh

Former minister of agriculture

Dissident of RND

Front du Changement (FC) 

Islamist

Abdelmadjid Menasra

Former vice-president of the Islamist MSP; former minister of industry

Dissident of MSP

Front National pour les Libertés (FNL)

Nationalist

Mohamed Zerrouki

Politician; served in 1999 in Commission Politique de Surveillance des Elections Présidentielles

 

Parti National Algérien (PNA)

Nationalist

Youcef Hamidi

   

Mouvement des Nationalistes Libres (MNL)

Nationalist

Mustapha Boudina

Senator from one-third presidential appointees in the Senate; tried unsuccessfully for 13 years to create a party

Président de l'Association Nationale des Anciens Condamnés à Mort60

Union pour la Démocratie et la République (UDR), now Mouvement Populaire Algérien (MPA) since 17 February 2012, dissident

Anti-Islamist/Republican

Amara Benyounès

Served as minister of health & minister of public works in the 1990s

Founding member of the Rally for Culture and Democracy

Mouvement des Citoyens Libres (MCL)

Republican

Abdelaziz Ghermoul

Dissident of UDR

Former president, Union of Algerian Writers

Parti des Jeunes Démocrates (PJD)

Republican

Salim Khalfa

NA

NA

Parti El-Fedjr El-Djadid (PFD),

Nationalist

Tahar Benbaïbèche

Former secretary general, RND

Dissident of RND

Parti Patriotique Libre (PPL)

Nationalist

Tarek Yahiaoui

   

Parti de l'Equité et de la Proclamation

Nationalist

Naïma (Leghlimi) Salhi

Former President of L'Union nationale des cadres pour l'Algérie

Close to the FLN

Parti Ennour El-Djezaïri (PED)

Nationalist/Democratic

Badredine Belbaz

 

Manager in a State enterprise

Front de la Bonne Gouvernance (FBG), a.k.a Front El Hokm el Rached (FM)

Technocratic

Aïssa Belhadi

 

Secretary-General of the National Organization of Student Solidarity (ONSE)

Source: Data on the new political parties has been compiled from various news reports, among which one can cite: "Dix-sept partis autorisés à tenir leur congrès constitutifs," Algérie Presse Service (APS), 2 February 2012, available at: http://www.aps.dz/Dix-sept-partis-autorises-a-tenir.html; Larbi Graïne, "Législatives 2012 Petite sociologie des nouveaux partis," Algérie360, 1 February 2012; available at: http://www.algerie360.com/algerie/legislatives-2012-petite-sociologie-des-nouveaux-partis/; Wassila Benhamed, "Législatives 2012: 5 nouveaux partis politiques entrent en lice," El Moudjahid, 14 February 2012, http://www.elmoudjahid.com/fr/actualites/23809; "Trois nouveaux partis agréés (ministère de l'Intérieur)," Algérie Presse Service (APS), 21 March 2012, http://www.aps.dz/spip.php?page=article&id_article=38481.

Although little is known about these parties, there is more information about their leaders. The majority were founded by dissidents from parliamentary parties (FLN, RND, RCD, and MSP) or by members of organizations belonging to the so-called "Revolutionary Family."61 With the possible exception of Mohamed Saïd and Abdallah Djaballah, most of the leaders of the new parties can hardly be considered real opposition figures. In many ways, their emergence was not surprising. Although the political scene under Bouteflika has been dull, internecine struggles have ravaged the dominant parties, most noticeably the FLN and the MSP, which have suffered serious dissidence, destabilizing their rank and file. Once the government authorized the creation of the new parties, it was natural for the dissidents to found their own organizations.

During the council of ministers meeting on February 8, 2012, the government decided to increase the number of deputies in the APN from 389 to 462. Two days later, Bouteflika announced that legislative elections would be held on May 10, 2012. His speech came at a time when the country was suffering from one of its worst winters (heavy snow, no access to services), which resulted in severe hardship for the majority of the population in the northern parts of the country. The president made no mention of the situation, which was interpreted, yet again, as disdain for the population, especially when the management of the situation by the administration highlighted the authorities' utter incompetence.62 Particularly abnormal was the fact that, while Bouteflika emphasized good governance in his speech, authorities acted quite irresponsibly in face of the crisis. This only aggravated the gap between rulers and ruled and devalued the importance of the upcoming elections in the eyes of the population, raising questions as to the rate of participation. Concern about low turnout has been so great that suggestions have been made as to the possibility of imposing a penalty for abstention.63

There is no evidence to prove that the government had a hand in splitting the older parties in the years prior to the authorization of new ones; however, it is obvious that the breakup of some parties and the subsequent fragmentation of the political landscape served the interests of the regime. This is reminiscent of the period in the aftermath of the October 1988 riots, when small parties proliferated. This time, however, it is inconceivable that a powerful party like the banned FIS, which was capable of producing regime change, will emerge. Thus, the FLN, the RND and, to a lesser degree, the MSP — the parties of the presidential alliance that have dominated the political scene — have the advantage. Even with the dissidence that has destabilized the FLN and the MSP, these parties still enjoy large constituencies and effective networks throughout the country that the smaller parties can never achieve. The new parties are practically unknown to the electorate; worse still, they have limited time to prepare and propagate their platforms. A voter would probably prefer to either abstain or cast a vote for a known party, even one with a minor record, than for an unknown quantity.

The proliferation of parties can serve the regime in another way — by increasing the rate of participation. In the May 2007 legislative elections, the rate of participation was an all-time low, highlighting the lack of both the legitimacy of the regime and the credibility of the elections.64 The need to increase turnout in the forthcoming election was underscored in Bouteflika's speech on February 9, 2012. He insisted on a clean election: "All measures have been taken to ensure transparent elections."65 A commission made up of magistrates would be entrusted with supervision of the entire process, all the way to the proclamation of the results by the Constitutional Council. Since the president gave such paramount importance to the 2012 legislative elections for the establishment of democracy and good governance, one might wonder why the regime granted such a short time for preparations. What would probably increase the rate of participation is not the promise of transparency, but the participation of a high number of small parties. The regime's anticipation is that the greater the number of parties, the more candidates and the higher the rate of participation. Another advantage for the multiplication of parties is obviously the fragmentation of the new APN. This would make it even less effective and prevent it from controling the actions of the executive branch, its usual role.

Another reason for the regime to want to increase the number of parties is to thwart the emergence of a unified Islamist bloc, as has happened in neighboring Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, as well as Egypt. Nonetheless, despite initial opposition, the government has tacitly allowed the Green Alliance (made up of three Islamist parties, the MSP, El Islah, and Ennahda),66 created on March 7, 2012, to compete in the election as a common list.67 Given the non-threatening nature of the three parties and their lack of popularity, as well as the traditional rivalries among their leaders, the regime has probably reached the conclusion that they would not win the election. Thus, the defeat of an Islamist bloc would constitute yet another argument for Algeria's "exceptionalism." Furthermore, even if Islamists gain many seats in the APN — which has traditionally rubber-stamped the executive's decisions — they will not be able to form a government, as this prerogative belongs to the president.

In early January 2012, the MSP had withdrawn from the presidential alliance, without however pulling its four ministers out of the government. Furthermore, the leader of the MSP did not disavow the presidential reform program, accusing the other two parties, the FLN and the RND, of having hampered the reforms that President Bouteflika had initiated.68 Undoubtedly, the MSP — as well as the Green Alliance, for that matter — seeks to position itself as a modernist, reformist Islamist party, like the Turkish AKP or the Moroccan PJD: an Islamist party that can govern Algeria.69 But it is doubtful whether the MSP, regardless of the leadership role it holds within the Green Alliance, can bring together all the Islamist parties, not least because its leader, Aboudjerra Soltani, does not have the charisma of his predecessor, Sheikh Mahfoud Nahnah. Besides, the MSP has been too closely associated for so long with an unpopular regime that it bears great responsibility, and blame, for the country's deficient governance.

Furthermore, the MSP has failed in the past to attract the constituents of the banned FIS. Today, MSP dissident Abdelmadjid Menasra hopes to lure them into his newly created party, the Front du Changement.70 Analysis of the Algerian political scene reveals the deep divergences among the Islamist parties and the discrepancies in their visions of state and society. Hence, whether Islamist parties will be able to coalesce to take control of the APN is an open question that undoubtedly worries Algeria's incumbent regime as well as the secular parties. During the 2007 legislative elections, Islamist parties seemed to have lost ground;71 however, with the successes of Islamism at the polls throughout the Maghreb, their possible reinvigoration cannot be discounted.72

The regime, for its part, counts on the proliferation of small parties to prevent such a scenario from materializing, thus making Algeria an "exception." However, should Islamists gain the majority in the parliament, the regime can accept it, especially since there is no party among them powerful enough to dispute the hegemony of the current regime, as the FIS did in 1991. What the regime seems to overlook, though, is the fact that the scenarios it is concocting may prove costly due to gross miscalculation: resisting genuine change and attempting to preserve the current political system through obsolete stratagems. Algerians will not be content with façade democracy in which political parties and deputies only represent themselves. They are yearning for real change. Short of that, they may emulate their Tunisian neighbors.

CONCLUSION

The Arab Spring seems to have circumvented Algeria, making the country look like the exception to the uprisings that unsettled several MENA countries. However, this exceptionalism is illusory, as Algerians' patience with bad governance is fading fast. While the trauma Algerians suffered throughout the 1990s still serves as a deterrent to a full-fledged uprising, the regime is ill-advised to assume that cosmetic reforms will perpetuate its rule indefinitely. The burgeoning of insignificant parties will surely not alleviate the socioeconomic and political shortcomings of the incumbent regime. Short of genuine change, Algeria will remain an exception only in the imagination of its incumbent rulers. Hence it is obvious that this lack of in-depth reforms may well not help restore public confidence in the political process. The president's assertion that "these elections [May 10, 2012] will determine the future and will affect the country's destiny"73 may be the litmus test for the credibility of the regime.

POSTSCRIPT

With an official turnout of 43.1 percent, the legislative elections occurred on May 10 as planned, yet the "protest vote" reached 64.7 percent. The FLN obtained 221 seats, the RND 70, the Islamist Green Alliance 47, the FFS 21 and the PT 17. Undoubtedly, the old generation interpreted Bouteflika's calls on two symbolic dates (February 24 and May 8) as appeals to vote for the FLN. Also the scare tactics of "foreign forces intervening in Algeria" used by some officials to motivate people to vote seems to have worked. While an "Arab Spring-style" and an Islamist victory have, for the moment, been avoided, the question remains whether the regime will continue conducting business as usual or use this opportunity to initiate genuine reforms that will shelter Algeria from a social explosion in the future.

 

1 Marina Ottaway, "The New Moroccan Constitution: Real Change or More of the Same?" Carnegie Endowment, June 20, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/06/20/new-moroccan-constitution-real-change-or-more-of-same/6g; Ahmed Benchemsi, "Morocco's King Is Destroying Hope for Democracy. With the Protest Movement Weakened, King Mohammed VI Is Forcing Constitutional Change and Retaining Absolute Power," The Guardian, June 30, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/30/morocco-king-destroy-democracy; and Paul Silverstein, "Weighing Morocco's New Constitution," Middle East Research and Information Project, July 5, 2011, http://www.merip.org/mero/mero070511.

2 For details, see Keith Sutton, Ahmed Aghrout and Salah Zaimeche, "Political Changes in Algeria: An Emerging Electoral Geography," The Maghreb Review 17, nos 1-2 (1992): 3-27; Yahia H. Zoubir, "Stalled Democratization of an Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Algeria," Democratization 2, no. 2 (1994-95): 109-139.

3 The enactment of an information code in 1990 ended the state's monopoly over printed media. A law passed in 1990 paved the way to the setting up of a wide range of organizations dealing with different issues (see endnote 47).

4 See Fareed Zakaria, "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy," Foreign Affairs 76 (1997): 22-43; Larry J. Diamond, "Elections without Democracy: Thinking about Hybrid Regimes," Journal of Democracy 13, no. 2 (April 2002): 21-35; Richard Snyder, "Beyond Electoral Authoritarianism: The Spectrum of Nondemocratic Regimes," in Andreas Schedler, ed., Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition (Lynne Rienner, 2006); Matthijs Bogaards, "How to Classify Hybrid Regimes? Defective Democracy and Electoral Authoritarianism," Democratization 16, no. 2 (2009): 399-423; and Steve Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

5 Doron Shultziner, Struggling for Recognition: The Psychological Impetus for Democratic Progress (New York: Continuum Press, 2010), 3.

6 By way of illustration, until February 2012, apart from the Front National Algérien (Algerian National Front, FNA) that was recognized in 1999, no other new political party had been legalized yet.

7 Stephen J. King. The New Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa (Indiana University Press, 2009).

8 These elections, whose purpose is to provide some degree of legitimacy to the incumbent regime, have been characterized as "electoral authoritarianism." See, Andreas Schedler (ed.), "The Logic of Electoral Authoritarianism," in Electoral Authoritarianism-The Dynamics of Unfree Competition (Lynne Rienner, 2006).

9 "Démocratie, gouvernement, religion, partis, économie, citoyenneté…Ce que pensent les Algériens," El Watan, January 17, 2012, accessed on January 19, 2012, http://www.russiaalgeria.ru/5/Elwatan/012012/20120117.pdf. The poll was sponsored by the Arab Barometer.

10 Ahmed Aghrout, "The Presidential Election in Algeria, April 2009," Electoral Studies 29, no. 1 (March 2010): 177-81.

11 Ahmed Aghrout and Yahia Zoubir, "Introducing Algeria's President-for-Life," Middle East Report Online, April 1, 2009, accessed January 13, 2012, http://www.merip.org/mero/mero040109.

12 In 2010, there were close to 10,000 riots in Algeria.

13 The riots started in a western suburb of Algiers on January 5, then spread to other districts in the capital and several cities in the country a few days later — some sources spoke of half of the country's 48 wilayas (provinces) that were affected. In many cities, protestors looted buildings, including banks, shops and businesses, government offices, schools, libraries and so forth. As stated by Daho Ould Kablia, minister of interior, four days of violence left three people dead — death toll rose to five a few days later — 800 wounded, amongst whom 736 were police officers, and 1,000 arrested, most of whom were minors. See La Tribune, January 10, 2011.

14 Amar Rafa, "Protéger les couches défavorisées et sévir contre les spéculateurs: Le Retour annoncé de l'Etat," La Tribune (Algiers), January 10, 2011, http://www.latribune-online.com/evenement/45613.html.

15 The most prominent case was that of the 27-year old father of two, Mohsen Bouterfif, who died on January 17, 2011, four days after setting himself on fire because the authorities refused to deal with his grievances relating to housing and employment. Thirty-five year old Karim Bendine, who immolated on January 18, 2011 in the eastern coastal city of Dellys, died a few days later. Although cases of immolation in Algeria multiplied following Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi's, the press had long reported such attempts throughout Algeria.

16 Azzedine Layachi, "Algeria's Rebellion by Installments," Middle East Report Online, March 12, 2011, http://www.merip.org/mero/mero031211, accessed January 24, 2012.

17 These included the Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie (Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie, RCD), Parti de l'Avant-Garde Socialiste (Socialist Vanguard Party, MDS), Parti pour la liberté et la justice (Party of Liberty and Justice, PLJ), the Ligue Algériennes pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, LADDH) as well as the Syndicat Autonome des Travailleurs de l'Education et de la Formation (Independent Union of Education and Training Workers, SATEF), and the Syndicat National Autonome des Personnels de l'Administration Publique (National Independent Union of Civil Servants, SNAPAP). For a full list of the CNCD founding members, see, LADDH, Pour une Coordination Nationale pour le Changement et la Démocratie, January 21, 2011, accessed 17 December 2011, http://www.la-laddh.org/spip.php?article568.

18 Pour une Coordination Nationale pour le Changement et la Démocratie, op. cit..

19 Mokrane Ait Ouarabi, "Vers l'élargissement du front pour le changement," El-Watan, January 24, 2011, http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/vers-l-elargissement-du-front-pour-le-changement-24-01-2011-108513_109.php.

20 A decree issued in June 2001 by the Algerian government prohibits public gatherings in the capital Algiers with no time limit.

21 Amnesty International, "Algeria Urged to Allow Peaceful Protests," February 11, 2011, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/algeria-urged-allow-peaceful-protests-2011-02-11.

22 The 2,000 demonstrators were outnumbered by the riot police, estimated at about 30,000 officers.

23 Article 88 (1) stipulates that, "If the President of the Republic, because of serious and long-lasting illness, happens to be in the impossibility to carry out his functions, the Constitutional Council meets de jure, and after having verified the reality of the impediment by the appropriate means, proposes, unanimously, to the Parliament to declare the state of impediment."Algerian Constitution, available on: http://www.algeria-un.org/default.asp?doc=-c2p1, accessed January 12, 2012.

24 Arab Chih, "L'armée doit prendre ses responsabilités – Maître Ali Yahia préconise l'application de l'article 88 de la constitution," Liberté, April 25, 2011, accessed April 26, 2011, available on: http://www.liberte-algerie.com/actualite/l-armee-doit-prendre-ses-responsabilites-me-ali-yahia-preconise-l-application-de-l-article-88-de-la-constitution-154948.

25 Hadjer Guenanfa, "La CNCD-partis politiques suspend ses marches du samedi," Tout Sur L'Algérie (online), June 24, 2011, accessed September 23, 2011, available at: http://www.tsa-algerie.com/politique/la-cncd-partis-politiques-suspend-ses-marches-du-samedi_16244.html.

26 Michael C. Hudson, "After the Gulf War: Prospects for Democratization in the Arab World," Middle East Journal 45, no. 3 (1991).

27 Yahia H. Zoubir, "State and Civil Society in Algeria," in Yahia H. Zoubir, ed., North Africa in Transition: State, Society and Economic Transformationin the 1990s (University Press of Florida, 1999), 29-42.

28 Although there exist no reliable figures, this conflict is estimated to have claimed 100,000-200,000 lives and the forced disappearance of over 7,000 people.

29 Peter Osborne, "Libya: The Arab Spring May Yet Turn to Chilly Winter," Telegraph, October 22, 2011, accessed January 26, 2012, available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8843214/Libya-The-Arab-Spring-may-yet-turn-to-chilly-winter.html.

30 Marina Ottaway and Amr Hamzawy, "Protest Movements and Political Change in the Arab World," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Policy Outlook, January 28, 2011, accessed January 29, 2012, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/OttawayHamzawy_Outlook_Jan11_ProtestMovements.pdf.

31 Algérie Presse Service, available on http://www.aps.dz/Les-reserves-de-changes-atteignent.html, accessed February 23, 2012. In April 2012, the IMF asked Algeria to contribute to the organization's financial capacities. "Le FMI sollicite l'Algérie pour renforcer ses capacités financières," Le Monde, 23 April, 2012, http://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2012/04/23/le-fmi-sollicite-l-algerie-pour-renforcer-ses-capacites-financieres_1689905_3234.html.

32 See, "Loi no. 11-11 du 18 juillet 2011 portant loi de finances complémentaire 2011," published in the Journal Officiel de la République Algérienne (JORA) 50, no. 40 (July 2011): 4-18.

33 Nabila Amir, "Vingt-un députés demandent la levée de l'état d'urgence," El-Watan, February 3, 2011, accessed on February 4, 2011, http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/21-deputes-demandent-la-levee-de-l-etat-d-urgence-03-02-2011-110029_109.php.

34 See "Ordonnance no. 11-01 du 23 février 2011 portant levée de l'état d'urgence," published in the JORA 50, no. 12 (February 2011): 4, http://www.ambalgott.com/Document/Ordonnance.pdf.

35 See "Réactions mitigées des partis," El-Moudjahid (Algiers), February 5, 2011; "Levée de l'état d'urgence en Algérie: réactions mitigées des partis," Ennahar (Algiers), February 5, 2011; "La levée de l'état d'urgence n'est pas une fin en soi, " Liberté (Algiers), February 5, 2011; "Réactions des partis politiques: Entre satisfaction et réticence," Horizons (Algiers) , February 22, 2011; "La classe politique réagit aux décisions du Conseil des ministres: Des réactions mitigées," Le Midi Libre, February 24, 2011.

36 See "Ordonnance no. 11-03 modifiant et complétant la Loi no. 91-23 du 6 décembre 1991 relative à la participation de l'armée nationale populaire à des missions de sauvegarde de l'ordre public hors les situations d'exception;" "Décret présidentiel no. 11-90 relatif à la mise en œuvre et à l'engagement de l'armée nationale populaire dans le cadre de la lutte contre le terrorisme et la subversion," published in the JORA 50, no. 12 (February 2011): 4-5, http://www.joradp.dz/HFR/Index.htm.

37 This was in a speech read on his behalf by his adviser, Mohamed Ali Boughazi, at a conference held in the city of Mostaganem on March 19, 2011; see Ahmed Mesbah, "Il promet une sortie de la situation de crise: Bouteflika fixe l'objet des réformes," L'Expression, March 20, 2011, http://www.lexpressiondz.com/actualite/129913-bouteflika-fixe-l'objet-des-réformes.html.

38 Under the proposed information law, the media sector would be partially privatized, press offences would be decriminalized, and a regulatory body would be set up to promote and reinforce press freedoms.

39 The alliance, formed in 2002, consists of the FLN, the Rassemblement National Démocratique (National Democratic Rally, RND) and the Mouvement de la Société pour la Paix (Movement of Society for Peace, MSP).

40 Madjid Makhedi, "Réformes politiques annoncées par le chef de l'Etat - Aït Ahmed dénonce la démarche du pouvoir," El-Watan, June 12, 2011, http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/ait-ahmed-denonce-la-demarche-du-pouvoir-12-06-2011-128312_109.php.

41 Mehdi Benslimane, "L'opposition a dit Niet, le pouvoir s'auto-consultera sur les réformes politiques de Bouteflika,"  Dernières Nouvelles d'Algérie (online), May 20, 2011, accessed February 4, 2012, http://www.dna-algerie.com/interieure/apres-le-niet-de-l-opposition-le-pouvoir-s-auto-consultera-sur-les-reformes-politiques-de-bouteflika-2#ixzz1MzJoT39D.

42 Ibid.

43 See "Loi organique no. 12-01 du 12 janvier 2012 relative au régime électoral"; "Loi organique no. 12-02 du 12 janvier 2012 fixant les cas d'incompatibilité avec le mandat parlementaire"; "Loi organique no. 12-03 du 12 janvier 2012 fixant les modalités augmentant les chances d'accès de la femme à la représentation dans les assemblées élues"; "Loi organique no. 12-04 du 12 janvier 2012 relative aux partis politiques"; "Loi organique no. 12-05 du 12 janvier 2012 relative à l'information"; "Loi organique no. 12-06 du 12 janvier 2012 relative aux associations." The first three texts were published in JORA, 51, no. 1, (janvier 14, 2012), and the others in JORA, 51, no. 2, (January 15, 2012), http://www.joradp.dz/HFR/Index.htm.

44 See "Loi no. 90-07 du 3 avril 1990 relative a l'information," published in JORA, 29, no. 14, (April 4, 1990), pp. 395-403; "Loi no. 90-31 du 4 décembre relative aux associations," published in JORA, vol. 29, no. 53, (5 décembre 1990), pp. 1438-1442; "Ordonnance no. 97-07 du 6 mars 1997 portant loi organique relative au régime électoral," published in JORA, 36, no. 12 (March 1997): pp. 3-22; "Ordonnance no.97-09 du 6 mars 1997 portant loi organique relative aux partis politiques," published in JORA 36, no. 12 (March 1997): 24-28.

45 Abed Charef, "Par où commencer la réforme?" Le Quotidien d'Oran, April 28, 2011, accessed on April 30, 2011, http://www.lequotidien-oran.com/?archive_date=2011-04-28&news=5152095.

46 The MSP, the third partner in the coalition which opted for abstention, claimed that the proposed "reforms were emptied of their substance" and called on Bouteflika to submit them to a popular referendum instead.

47 The FLN and the RND have 136 seats and 61 seats, respectively, in the 389-seat legislature.

48 For instance, Louisa Hanoune, leader of the PT, accused the FLN of encouraging political corruption as its deputies switched to this party; see Farouk Djouadi, "Hanoune à propos des députés ayant rejoint le FLN – Libre aux partis de se transformer en poubelles,'" L'Expression (Algiers), April 26, 2008, accessed April 28, 2011, http://www.lexpressiondz.com/actualite/54136-%C2%ABLibre-aux-partis-de-se-transformer-en-poubelles%C2%BB.html.

49 See, for example, Achira Mammeri, "Elections législatives – Des ministres RND candidats," L'Expression (Algiers), March 14, 2007, accessed on March 28, 2007, http://www.lexpressiondz.com/actualite/40908-des-ministres-rnd-candidats.html.

50 Women's political rights, especially those allowing them to stand for election, were originally provided by the 1976 constitution (article 58) and guaranteed in the succeeding constitutions, 1989 (article 47) and 1996 (article 50). The constitutional amendments of November 2008 included a new proviso which, in due course, aims at creating a level playing field for men and women; "the state strives to the promotion of the political rights of women by increasing their chances of access to representation in elected assemblies."

51 There are three presidents of municipal assemblies out of 1,541, and only one president of the provincial assembly of 48 (wilayas).

52 The Inter-Parliamentary Union, Women in National Parliaments 2011, August 31, 2011, accessed February 5, 2012, http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm.

53 In the amended law, 20 percent of seats will be reserved for women in constituencies that have four seats, 30 percent for constituencies with five seats, 35 percent for those with 14 seats or more and 40 percent for constituencies with more than 32 seats. The Algerian community abroad will be allowed a 50 percent quota for women.

54 Reda Bekkat, "On achève bien les illusions," El-Watan, November 10, 2011, accessed on November 11, 2011, available on: http://www.elwatan.com/edito/on-acheve-bien-les-illusions-10-11-2011-146747_171.php.

55 It was elected with a turnout of just 35 percent, the lowest ever in post-independence Algeria.

56 Lahouari Addi, "Les Parties politiques en Algérie," Revue des Mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée (REMMM) 111-112 (March 2006): 139-162.

57 In their seminal work, LaPalombara and Weiner identified a modern political party as one that, outlasts its founders, has a national existence, seeks popular support, and endeavors to conquer state power. See Joseph La Palombara and Myron Weiner, eds., Political Parties and Political Development (Princeton University Press, 1969), 6. See also, Sigmund Neumann, "What Is a Party?" in Comparative Political Parties—Selected Readings, Andrew Milnor, ed. (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1969), esp. 26-27.

58 "Loi organique no. 12-04 du 12 janvier 2012 relative aux partis politiques."

59 G.O., "Les élections législatives par les chiffres," Le Quotidien d'Oran, 21 April, 2012, http://www.lequotidien-oran.com/index.php?news=5167293. Of the approximately sixty parties that had been authorized until 1999, only 22 had remained active.

60 President of the National Association of the Sentenced to Death [by the French colonial authorities during the Algerian War of National Liberation against France].

61 The information concerning the political parties has been compiled from many news reports, among which we can cite: "Dix-sept partis autorisés à tenir leur congrès constitutifs, Algérie Presse Service (APS), February 2, 2012, http://www.aps.dz/Dix-sept-partis-autorises-a-tenir.html; Larbi Graïne, "Législatives 2012 Petite sociologie des nouveaux partis," Algérie360, February 1, 2012; http://www.algerie360.com/algerie/legislatives-2012-petite-sociologie-des-nouveaux-partis/; Wassila Benhamed, "Législatives 2012 : 5 nouveaux partis politiques entrent en lice," El Moudjahid (Algiers), February 14, 2012, http://www.elmoudjahid.com/fr/actualites/23809.

62 In a dossier entitled "Le mépris" [disdain], the influential newspaper El Watan published a series of articles underscoring the incompetence of the authorities in handling the crisis caused by the unusually bad weather. See, in particular, "Législatives: La neige va faire fondre la participation," El Watan, February 10, 2012, http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/legislatives-la-neige-va-faire-fondre-la-participation-10-02-2012-158388_109.php; see also, K. Selim, "La neige et le désert politique," Le Quotidien d'Oran, February 11, 2012, http://www.lequotidien-oran.com/?news=5164120. The regime never learned the lessons from the 2001 flood disaster in Bab el Oued in the heart of the capital or the 2003 earthquake in Boumerdes, a short distance east of the capital.

63 Fidet Mansour, "Algeria Debates Voter Abstention Penalty," Magharebia, 20 April, 2012, http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2012/04/20/feature-03.

64 An analysis of those elections can be found in Louisa Dris-Aït-Hamadouche, "The 2007 Legislative Elections in Algeria: Political Reckonings," Mediterranean Politics 13, no. 1 (March 2008): 87-94.

65 "Discours du Président Bouteflika à l'occasion de l'annonce des élections législatives de l'année 2012 : Garantir la transparence du scrutin," El Moudjahid (Algiers), February 11, 2012, http://www.elmoudjahid.com/fr/actualites/23661/print.

66 "Naissance de ‘l'Alliance de l'Algérie verte' regroupant trois partis d'obédience islamique" El Watan, 7 March, 2012, http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/naissance-de-l-alliance-de-l-algerie-verte-regroupant-trois-partis-d-obedience-islamique-07-03-2012-161923_109.php.

67 "Alliance de l'Algérie verte: Des listes communes dans 47 wilayas et des listes séparées à Ghardaïa," El-Moudjahid, April 18, 2012, http://www.elmoudjahid.com/fr/flash-actu/7165; Aomar F., "Elle participle avec des listes communes dans 47 wilayas-L'Alliance verte divisée à Ghardaia," Les Débats (Algiers), April 19, 2012, http://www.lesdebats.com/editions/190412/evenement.htm#2.

68 Faouzia Ababsa, "Le MSP se retire de l'alliance présidentielle," La Tribune (Paris), January 1, 2012, http://www.latribune-online.com/evenement/62223.Ahtml.

69 Farid Abdeladim, "L'Alliance verte annonce la couleur!" Liberté, April 15, 2012, http://liberte-algerie.com/actualite/l-alliance-verte-annonce-la-couleur-le-programme-de-campagne-a-ete-presente-hier-par-les-chefs-des-trois-partis-176118.

70 Amel Bentolba, "Menasra: Le Clin d'œil aux anciens du FIS," Le soir d'Algérie, February 6. 2012, http://www.lesoirdalgerie.com/articles/2012/02/06/article.php?sid=129872&cid=2.

71 Yahia H. Zoubir and Louisa Dris-Aït-Hamadouche, "The Fate of Political Islam in Algeria," in The Contemporary Maghrib, Bruce Maddy-Weitzman and D. Zisenwine, eds. (University Press of Florida, 2007), 103-31.

72 Another scenario might be an attempt by the FLN faction led by Abdelaziz Belkhadem to draw to its ranks small Islamist parties to form a nationalist-Islamist coalition, which is already apparent within that faction of the FLN.

73 See President Bouteflika's message on the occasion of International Workers' Day, El-Moudjahid, May 2, 2012, http://www.elmoudjahid.com/fr/actualites/27225.