Algeria country update - European Forum - for Democracy and Solidarity

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Algeria

Algeria

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. After the independence, a violent 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.

In the beginning of 2011, widespread protests broke out over the sudden increase in staple food prices. The government lowered the food prices, but the Arab spring in neighbouring countries inspired labour unions, opposition parties and religious groups to organise large-scale protests across the entire country. In late February, Bouteflika’s government lifted the 19-year state of emergency in response to the protests. As a response to the unrest the authorities promised to make the 2012 parliamentary elections a next step on the road towards real democracy. But while officials have billed the elections as 'an Algerian spring' they were mainly marked by a low turnout.

POLITICAL SITUATION

President
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%.

Parliament
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.


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ELECTIONS

Presidential elections 2014
The most recent presidential elections took place in April 2014. Incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ran and won for a fourth term. He took over 81% of the votes, despite a declining health that prevented him from actively campaigning.

Other candidates running in this election were Ali Benfils for the Independents, Louisa Hanoune: candidate of the Workers' Party (PT), Moussa Touati: candidate of the Algerian National Front (FNA), Abdelaziz Belaid for the Front for the Future Party, Ali Fawzi Rebaine for Ahd 54.

Algeria's main opposition leaders said before the election that it’s a "done deal" set up in Bouteflika's favour.

Election results
Candidates and parties Votes %
Abdelaziz Bouteflika - National Liberation Front 8,332,598 81.53
Ali Benfils – independent 1,244,918  12,18
Abdelaziz Belaid – Front for the Future 343,624 3,36
Louisa Hanoune - Workers' Party 140,253 1.37
Ali Fawzi Rebaine – Ahd 54 101,046 0.99
Moussa Touati - Algerian National Front 57,590 0.56
Invalid votes    1,087,449 -
Total (turnout 74.54%)    21,871,393  51,70

The results of the presidential election of 2012 were clearly in favour of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who gained more than 80% of votes. Nevertheless authorities put the turnout at just above 51 percent, which is quite low. There were a few incidents, especially in the Berber area of Kabylie. Bouteflika called the election an “eloquent lesson in democracy” shortly after results were announced. He thanked Algerians for the confidence they granted him. At the same time, his main opponent Ali Benfils condemned the election as a "fraud on a massive scale."

The proportion of Algerians who went voting was much smaller this time than in 2009, when around 75% of people went voting. Many voices rose to denounce the lack of change within Algerian politics and the need for new political figures to step in.
Despite all that, some voters underlined that their priority was on stability and peace and the Bouteflika choice thus made sense. Indeed, his first mandates led to a reduction in the civil war conflicts as well as a restoration of economic stability.

Allegations of fraud
Observers and Bouteflika's five low-profile challengers criticized Bouteflika’s victory, according to them there was a lot of fraud. The interior minister, however, did not notice any precise and concrete cases which would indicate large scale fraud. People protesting against the results after they were announced blocked roads with burning tires and clashed with police in the Kabylie province east of Algiers. The opposition Front of Socialist Forces accused the authorities of artificially inflating the turnout. “There was a real tsunami of massive fraud which reached an industrial scale”, the party said in a statement. The RCD, which called for a boycott of the election, said youth tried to storm its Algiers headquarters after the announcement of the results. A party statement said clashes occurred when Bouteflika supporters tried to pull out the black flag the party was waving above its offices in sign of mourning for Algeria's faltering democracy. Said Sadi also said he would take Algerian PM Ahmed Ouyahia to court for defamation. During the election campaign Ouyahia had publicly denounced those calling for an election boycott as traitors to the nation. The opposition leader also accused Bouteflika of violating the country’s law by appropriating the struggle against the colonial French for himself, saying Bouteflika abused the nation’s symbols of heritage. Sadi accused the Algerian president of using liberation war heroes for his campaign posters even though Algerian electoral law prohibits it. He was not very optimistic about his chances of success in an Algerian court but insisted his legal action did have a more symbolic importance.

The election result matters to the outside world because Algeria, an OPEC member, has the world's 15th largest oil reserves and accounts for 20 percent of the EU's gas imports. Turmoil in Algeria could lead to a wave of illegal migrants to Europe. Some sections of the population feel disconnected from the political process and analysts say that helps feed Algeria's low-level Islamist insurgency, now affiliated to al-Qaeda.


Parliamentary elections 2012
On 10 May 2012 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.

Election Results
Party Seats in Parliament
National Liberation Front 220
National Rally for Democracy 68
Green Algeria Alliance 48
Front of Socialist Forces 21
Workers Party 20
Independent Candidates 19
Algerian National Front 9
Justice and Development Party 7
Algerian Popular Movement 6
New Dawn 5
Others 39

The authorities claimed that this election would manage a process of reform as a counterpoint of the upheavals that were seen in neighbouring countries. Many Algerians, however, see elections as useless because real power, they say, lies with an informal network of elites and is dominated by security forces and they do not expect the ruling elite to truly relinquish their long-held power. In spite of calls to vote ‘massively’ by the country’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflinka, journalists in both the capital and surrounding villages say that only very few people actually went to the polling stations. The Interior Minister however puts the turnout at 42.9 percent, and President Bouteflika even called the turnout 'remarkable'. After initially welcoming European Union and African Union observers, Algiers denied the more than 500 observers access to national election lists and warned observers not to be overly critical of the election process.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton however hailed the elections, in a statement issued by her spokeswomen she said “these elections -- and the high number of women elected -- are a welcome step in Algeria’s progress toward democratic reform,” she added that she looked forward to strengthen the ties between both governments.


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SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTIES

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/


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OTHER POLITICAL PARTIES

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.

Website: http://www.pfln.org.dz/


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 Ad


Workers' Party
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.


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.
Website: http://www.rcd-algerie.org/


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. 

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
New Dawn
Front of change
National party for Solidarity and Development
Algerian Rally
National Front for Social Justice
Ahd 54
Union of Democratic and Social Forces
National Republican Alliance
Future Front
National Movement of Hope
Republican Patriotic Rally
Movement of Free Citizens
Algerian Light Party
Dignity Party
Party of Algerian Renewal
El-Infitah Movement
National Front for Indepedents for Understanding
National Democratic Front


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BIOGRAPHIES

bouteflika.jpg

Abdelaziz Bouteflika
President

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.
He was reelected for a fourth mandate in 2014, with around 81% of votes.

 


 

sellal2.jpg

Abdelmalek Sellal
Prime Minister

Abdelmalek Sellal entered office in 2013 and was reelected in 2014  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.

 


ouyahia.jpgAhmed Ouyahia
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.


ait_ahmed2.jpgHocine Ait-Ahmed
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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Flag of Algeria Algeria

Last update: 14 July 2014
Author: -

Population: 39,21 million (World Bank 2013 est.)
Prime Minister: Abdelmalek Sellal (since September 2012)
President: Abdelaziz Bouteflika (since April 1999)
Governmental type: Republic
Ruling Coalition: Nation Liberation Front (NLF), National Democratic Rally (NDR) and Movement of a Peaceful Society
Last Elections: Parliamentary - May 10, 2012
Next Election: Presidential - April 2014
Sister Parties: Socialist Forces Front, FFS (full member)

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Sources Sources

Adam Carr's Homepage: People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
Al-Arabiya
Al-Jazeera
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
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CIDCM: Minorities at Risk; Berbers in Algeria
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Dayan
Election Guide
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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
Worker’s Party

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