The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria is an Islamic, Arab and Amazigh (Berber) country. After a long history of colonisation by France, the Algerian people were dissatisfied with the way the French treated them on their own land. Then the War of Independence broke out. After the independence a bloody Civil War emerged, that was the result of an undemocratic interference of the military. In the Civil War there were many casualties, but the current President Bouteflika gave an amnesty to the guerrilla fighters. The violence has declined from that point on and Algeria can now start to work on a constructive way to democratisation.
The head of the executive branch of Algeria is an elected president for a term of five years. Candidates can be nominated in two ways; either by 600 elected officials or by popular petition of at least 75.000 registered voters. The Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President, appoints the members of the cabinet.
On 11 September 1998, President Zeroual announced he would stand down and that early presidential elections would be called. He did this to facilitate a transfer back to normal elections for the office, for he was once appointed in 1992 as President to achieve this goal. On 15 April 1999 the elections were held. After the withdrawal of six candidates, only Abdelaziz Bouteflika (National Rally for Democracy RND) remained. The other candidates withdrew because they were afraid of massive fraud in favour of Bouteflika. Early in April they demanded that results from mobile and other special polling stations should not be counted, as they suspected government departments of swelling their number to make rigging easier. At the end Bouteflika won the elections with 73.79%.
The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria has a bicameral parliament, which is made of the National People’s Assembly and the National Council.
The National People’s Assembly
The National People's Assembly (the lower house) consists of 462 members who are elected with the universal, direct suffrage according to the proportional representation system. Eight of these seats are reserved for Algerians living abroad. Term of legislature is 5 years. The members of the National People’s Assembly are directly elected in 48 multi-member constituencies - corresponding to country’s wilayas (administrative districts) - with seats allotted according to the population: one seat for every 80,000 inhabitants and one supplementary seat for every fraction of 40,000. No wilaya has less than four seats. Voting is not compulsory. Either the President or one of the parliamentary chambers may initiate legislation.
In December 1991 the first free multiparty general elections for the former National People’s Assembly were held. After the first round it was very clear that the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was going for a victory. The army then cancelled the elections and suspended the Constitution. This escalated and was followed by widespread disturbances and numerous arrests of prominent Islamists.
After the escalations had cooled down an advisory body on legislation, the National Consultative Council was set up in April 1992. It functioned until the National Transitional Council was inaugurated in May 1994 for a three-year transitional period. In March 1997 a new electoral law was adopted and a new date for elections was announced in June 1997. The elections were in a context of mounting violence by armed groups, as well as human rights violations. FIS called for a boycott after being barred from running. The elections took place in the presence of 200 international observers; the turnout was officially 65.6%. The National Rally for Democracy (RND), who did not even exist three months earlier, had won 156 out of 380 seats. The MSP-Hamas won 69 seats, the National Liberation Front (FLN) won 64 and the Islamist Party 34. Women represented 3.4 % of the total number of members of the Assembly. UN observers noted that some voting conditions could not fully guarantee neutrality in the voting process.
The National Council
The National Council (the upper house) was first instituted in 1996 and consists of 144 seats, wilaya assemblies indirectly elect 96 and 48 are appointed by the President. The term of legislature is 6 years, of which a half of the members are being re-elected or reappointed every three years.
At this moment the elected seats of the National Council mainly go to the RND (about 83.3%), FLN (10.4%), FFS (Front of Socialist Forces 4.1%) and Hamas/HMS/MSP (Movement for a Peaceful Society 2.1%). The last election of the National Council took place in December 2003.
The president of the National Council is Adbelkader Bensalah. Women represent 5.5% of the total members of the Council. The National Council is a legislative branch and must approve any law approved by the National Assembly with a three-quarters majority.
Presidential elections 2009
The most recent presidential elections took place in April 2009. The Council of Ministers announced on 3 November 2008 that a planned constitutional revision would remove the two-term limit on the Presidency, thereby enabling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a third term. The People's National Assembly endorsed the removal of the term limit on 12 November 2008; only the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) voted against its removal.
Bouteflika announced his independent candidacy for a third term at a rally in Algiers on 12 February 2009. Other candidates running in this election were Louisa Hanoune: candidate of the Trotskyist Workers' Party (PT), Moussa Touati: candidate of the Algerian National Front (FNA), Mohammed Said: independent candidate (Party of Justice and Liberty), Djahid Younsi: candidate of the Movement for National Reform and Ali Fawzi Rebaine: candidate of the Ahd 54.
Algeria's main opposition leaders said before the election that it’s a "done deal" set up in Bouteflika's favour. Some urged former President Liamine Zéroual to run for President. However, in a published statement on 14 January 2009 he said that he would not run, while also suggesting that it was not in the best interests of democracy for President Bouteflika to run for a third term. RCD leader Saïd Sadi announced on 15 January 2009 that the RCD would not participate in the election, which he described as a "pathetic and dangerous circus", saying that participating would be a humiliation for the country. Sadi was among the strongest opponents who had called for a boycott of the vote.
|Candidates and parties||Votes||%|
|Abdelaziz Bouteflika - National Liberation Front||12,911,705||90.24|
|Louisa Hanoune – Workers' Party||604,258||4.22|
|Moussa Touati – Algerian National Front||330,570||2.31|
|Djahid Younsi – Movement for National Reform||176,674||1.37|
|Ali Fawzi Rebaine – Ahd 54||133,129||0.93|
|Mohammed Said – Party of Justice and Liberty||132,242||0.92|
|Total (turnout 74.54%)||15,351,305|
Parliamentary elections 2012
On 10 May legislative elections took place in Algeria for the 462 seats in the National People’s Assembly. But while officials claimed this election to be the most free elections in 20 years and even promised an “Algerian Spring”, the elections were marked by a low turnout, according to foreign sources.
Under pressure to reform after last year's "Arab Spring" in the region, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika approved the establishment of 23 new political parties and an increase in the number of seats in parliament to 462. In addition the authorities installed new party rules that preserve 30% of the places on the candidacy lists for women, where the 2007 elected parliament only saw 28 women in parliament, the new policy has led to 145 women gaining seats in parliament, making it the most gender-balanced in the region. Election results mainly show an increase in the seats for the two governing parties. While Islamist parties in neighbouring countries are on the rise, the Islamist Green Alliance in Algeria only got 48 seats in parliament, this has come in as a surprise according to many observers. The Alliance has denounced the outcome and called it fraud, while threatening to take measures, one leader even called for a Tunisian-style revolution as the only option. But Algeria so far has bucked the regional trend, largely preserving the political status quo in polls that even saw Islamist parties lose ground, with all seven parties contesting the vote managing only a combined 59 seats.
|Party||Seats in Parliament|
|National Liberation Front||220|
|National Rally for Democracy||68|
|Green Algeria Alliance||48|
|Front of Socialist Forces||21|
|Algerian National Front||9|
|Justice and Development Party||7|
|Algerian Popular Movement||6|
Front of Socialist Forces
The Front of Socialist Forces (FFS) is a Berber-based social democratic and secularist political party in Algeria and is a full member of the Socialist International. It was founded in 1963 by Hocine Ait Ahmed and was banned until 1990, because no other parties were allowed to participate in the parliamentary elections. Hocine Ait Ahmed is a historical leader in the national struggle for liberation and always opposed the single party system. Hocine Ait Ahmed still functions as party president, while the party is chaired by Ali Laskri.
In the elections in December 1991, the FFS became the third most important political party while participating for the first time in parliamentary elections. It became also the leading party in the Berber regions. This success can be explained by the fact that they demand a multilingual society where Berber and French should be recognised alongside Arabic.
The FFS has always been a strong opponent of the army controlling the (setting up of the) institutions and has always called for the re-establishment of the democratic process.
The FFS favours the dialogue with the moderate wing of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), despite its deeply secular basis. The FFS has condemned violence as a means of political action, called for real negotiations with the governing power and re-establishing the FIS.
In 2002 the FFS boycotted the parliamentary elections out of protest for the rights of the Berber population. In the latest elections in 2012 the party became the fourth party, after the two governing parties and the Islamist Green Alliance, winning 21 out of the 462 seats.
Website FFS: http://www.ffs-dz.net/
The National Liberation Front
The National Liberation Front (FLN) is the party of President Bouteflika. It was set up in 1954 as a merger of other smaller groups as a socialist party, to obtain independence for Algeria from France. During the 1980s the FLN toned down the socialist content of its programme.
In the 2002 parliamentary elections the FLN received 34.3% of the votes, gaining the most seats in parliament (199). It then created a governing coalition together with the National Rally for Democracy and the Movement of Society for Peace. The former secretary-general of the FLN Ali Benflis was a candidate for the presidential elections. He received only 6.4% of the votes. After the elections Abdelaziz Belkhadem took control of the party.
After the 2007 elections the party formed the ruling presidential alliance, together with the National Rally for Democracy and the Movement of Society for Peace, the latter stepped out of the alliance in the wake of the 2012 elections. In the 2012 parliamentary elections the party took the majority of the votes winning 220 seats in the Parliament.
National Rally for Democracy
The National Rally for Democracy is commonly seen as the sister party of the FLN. The leader of the party is the former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia. They are loyal to the current President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and considered to have close relations with the politically powerful Algerian military. In the 2012 parliamentary elections the party gained 68 out of 462 seats.
Movement for National Reform
The Movement for National Reform (MRN) is a moderate Islamist political party, the party was parting faction from the Ennahda movement (Islamic Renaissance Movement), after that party opted for cooperation with Algeria's government. Party leader Abdallah Djaballah then left to found and lead the more radically oppositional el-Islah. The current party leader is Abdallah Djaballah. In the 2012 parliamentary elections the party took part in the Green Alliance, an alliance of Islamist parties, together with the Movement of Society for Peace and Islamic Renaissance Movement, together they gained 48 seats in parliament.
Movement of Society for Peace
The Movement of Society for Peace (HMS), is an Islamist party led by Mahfoud Nahnah until his death in 2003. The current leader is Bouguerra Soltani, who also leads the Green Algeria Alliance, in which the party takes part. It used to be part of the ruling coalition together with the FLN and RND. This party has close relations with the international Muslim Brotherhood. Furthermore, it favours the Civil Harmony Act, an amnesty for guerrillas who lay down their arms and is strongly opposed to proposed changes in the Algerian Family Code.
Islamic Renaissance Movement
The Islamic Renaissance Movement was founded in 1990 as an Islamist center-right party, which claims the ideology of the Islamic Brotherhood movement in Egypt. The political leader is Lahbib Adami.
The Worker’s Party is a Trotskyist political party who has close relations with the Worker’s Party in France. The party is led by Louisa Hanoune. In 2004 she was the first woman in Algeria to run for the presidential elections. She received 101.630 votes (1%) in the 2002 elections. The party gained 20 seats in parliament after the 2012 elections.
Algerian National Front
The Algerian National Front was founded in 1954. At the last elections in 2012 this national conservative party won 9 seats in the parliament. The current leader is Moussa Touati.
Other parties in parliament
Several other parties made it into the parliament after the 2012 parliamentary elections, many of them are new in parliament, and they only have few (up to 7 ) seats.
Justice and Development Party
Algerian Popular Movement
Front of change
National party for Solidarity and Development
National Front for Social Justice
Union of Democratic and Social Forces
National Republican Alliance
National Movement of Hope
Republican Patriotic Rally
Movement of Free Citizens
Algerian Light Party
Party of Algerian Renewal
National Front for Indepedents for Understanding
National Democratic Front
Rally for Culture and Democracy
The Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) is a Berber based radically secularist political party which was founded in 1989 by Saïd Sadi.
In the local elections of 1990, boycotted by the FFS, the RCD focused on the demands of the Berbers and took control of most local governments in the Berber region without any difficulty. In 1991 however, during the parliamentary elections, it did not win a single seat while the FFS, which took part in the elections for the first time, won 25 seats.
The party leader Saïd Sadi, who was a presidential candidate in 1995, won 9.3% of the votes. In 1997 the RCD won 19 seats at the parliamentary elections. In 2012 they boycotted the elections because of the lack of rights of the Berber population, they called the outcome fraudulent.
Islamic Salvation Front
The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) is an outlawed Islamist political party in Algeria. The FIS centres its ideology on the strict respect of Islamic values. It was founded on 18 February 1989, soon after it was allowed to establish other parties next to the ruling single party FLN, and was legalised by the Interior Ministry on 16 September 1989. They did not take part in the 2012 parliamentary elections, but formed an important factor in Algeria’s past.
While the party gained over 50% of votes in local elections in the early 90s, they were outlawed after the army interrupted the electoral process. The party then set up an armed branch, which led to violence. After the election of Bouteflika in 1999 a cease-fire was reached, the party is however still outlawed.
Born on 2 March 1937 in Morocco Abdelaziz Bouteflika started his political career in the 60s after Algeria gained independence. He started as Minister for Youth and Sport, but quickly gained the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs, a position in which he stayed until the death of former President Houari Boumedienne in 1978. In this last position Bouteflika was convicted of having fraudulently taken 60 million dinar, but while his colleagues were jailed Bouteflika was granted amnesty after having returned just over 12 million.
After six years abroad, the army brought him back to the Central Committee of the FLN in 1989, after the country had entered a period of unrest and power-struggles and disorganized attempts for reform. After the civil war that lasted throughout most of the 90s between the army and fractions of the Islamists, Bouteflika ran for President as an independent candidate in 1999, supported by the military.
In his first term Bouteflika mainly focussed on restoring the economy, by boosting agricultural production and fiscal reform. Bouteflika was also active in the international scene, after the country had been isolated for over a decade. In 2004 he was re-elected in an election which was accepted by the OSCE as mostly free and fair. In his second term he mainly focussed on reconciliation with Islamist forces and giving rights to the Berber community. Even though he was diagnosed with cancer he ran for a third term in 2009. After having been elected with over 90% of the votes he again promised to focus on the economy and corruption.
Abdelmalek Sellal entered office in 2013 after an extensive political career. He has been closely involved in the presidential elections of 2004 and 2009 that had brought Bouteflika to power. Before he was appointed as Prime Minister, he had held various ministerial posts, including transport and water resources. Abdelmalek does not belong to any particular political party and is widely regarded as a technocrat. Sellal is seen as a modernizer and closely related to the military. In 1999 Sellal became the minister of interior, then the minister of youth and sports, followed by minister of transport and finally minister of water resources, before being nominated as prime minister. In 2004 and 2009 Sellal was responsible for Bouteflika’s Presidential election campaign.
Former Prime Minister
Ahmed Ouyahia entered office in 2008 after a successful career as diplomat and Minister of Justice. He is one of the founders and the current president of the National Rally for Democracy. He is considered by Western observers to be close to the military of Algeria and a member of the "eradicator" faction in the 1990s civil war against Islamist militants, a faction opposed to negotiations with the Islamists and in favour of all-out war. His position in the civil war was criticised by Western Human Rights organizations.
He was Minister of State and Justice from 1999 to 2002 in Bouteflika's first government. During this time Ouyahia was assigned the task of securing a peace deal in the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. After suffering a defeat in the 2002 parliamentary elections Ouyahia resigned and was nominated in the next government as Minister of State and Special Representative of the President, an honorary position entailing no governing power. Ouyahia has been Prime Minister from 1995-1998, 2003-2006 and 2008-2012. In his latest term the foreign and domestic press have commented on the sometimes stormy relations between Ouyahia and Bouteflika. Ouyahia is mainly credited for his role as a mediator in the longstanding dispute between Berber leaders and the government.
Historical leader of the Front of Socialist Forces
Hocine Ait-Ahmed, born in 1926 as a member of the Berber community in Algeria, was one of the front leaders during the war of independence as the leader of the National Liberation Front. However, he spent most of the time in prison. In 1963 he formed the Front of Socialist Forces, in a time during which he led the Berbers in a revolt against the authorities. He was captured but escaped from prison in 1966 and fled to exile in France and later in Switzerland. After the destabilizing October 1988 riots, he returned to Algeria in December 1989. The FFS was legalized as an opposition party. He actively campaigned in the national parliamentary elections in December 1991 to January 1992 and organized a huge rally in Algiers in support of democracy.
Although he never supported the Islamic Salvation Front, he actively opposed the cancellation of the elections in 1992 by the military, which later turned into a civil war. In 1999 he ran for president, but later denounced his candidacy in protest of irregularities and alleged fraud. Ait Ahmed is a strong advocate of democracy, political pluralism, and human (especially Berber) rights.
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Adam Carr's Homepage: People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
Al-Bab Country briefing Algeria
Arab Decision: Political Parties Algeria
BBC Country profile: Algeria
BBC News: 13 July 2001; Algeria opposes UN Western Sahara plan
BBC News: 9 April 2004; Algeria's presidential challengers
CIA: World Fact Book Algeria
CIDCM: Minorities at Risk; Berbers in Algeria
Country studies, Algeria
Election Guide Encyclopaedia Britannica: Foreign relations of Algeria
European Commission: Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Algeria, National Indicative Programme 2005-2006
European Commission: EU’s Relations with Algeria
Freedomhouse: Country report Algeria 2005
Freedomhouse: Country report Algeria 2006
Global Security - Algerian National Liberation
Human Rights Watch: Algeria
Medea: ALGERIA, Elections and Parliament National People’s Assembly
Presidential Website Algeria
Reporters Without Borders
Transparency International: Country report Algeria
United Nations: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
United Nations Development Program: Programma on Governance in the Arab region, Civil Society in Algeria
United Nations Development Program: Programma on Governance in the Arab region, Fighting
Corruption in Algeria
Washington Post: 24 February 2011; Algeria's state of emergency is officially lifted
Wikipedia: 2010–2011 Algerian protests
Wikipedia: Elections in Algeria
Wikipedia: Foreign relations of Algeria
Wikipedia: Legislative elections
Wikipedia: Politics of Algeria