In addition to a looming succession crisis, Algeria faces multiple political, economic and social challenges. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has ruled the country without contest since 1999 but has been gravely ill since a stroke in 2014. With no clear heir, his succession could be troubled and worsen Algeria’s ability to tackle mounting economic challenges as oil income dwindles. This would deprive the wider region – particularly the Sahel – of an important stabilising presence. Through fieldwork in Algeria and engagement with senior officials, Crisis Group works to increase the likelihood of peaceful political transition and enhance Algeria’s contribution to stability and conflict resolution in a troubled neighbourhood.
Le 1er novembre 2020, le référendum constitutionnel sur lequel comptait le pouvoir algérien pour avancer vers des réformes a été éclipsé par l’hospitalisation du président Tebboune. Dans ce Q&A, notre analyste principal pour l’Algérie et la Tunisie, Michael Ayari, anticipe les risques de cette situation.
President Tebboune returned to Algeria, and authorities condemned Morocco’s normalisation agreement with Israel in exchange for U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over Western Sahara. Tebboune 13 Dec announced that he would direct revision of electoral law, confirming his intention to speed up promulgation of new constitution and organise early legislative and local elections; video published online was his first public appearance since he left for Germany late Oct to receive COVID-19 treatment. Several opposition parties, including those close to pro-democracy Hirak protest movement, declared anew their opposition to current govt and any election. Tebboune 29 Dec returned to Algeria and same day briefly appeared on television. After U.S. 10 Dec recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and announced normalisation of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel, PM Abdelaziz Djerad 12 Dec condemned “foreign manoeuvres which aim to destabilise Algeria” and complained of “a desire to bring the Israeli and Zionist entity to our borders”, while FM same day said U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over disputed territory undermined efforts to end decades-long conflict. Meanwhile, army increasingly resorted to warlike tone. In army’s monthly magazine El Djeich, military leadership 7 Dec called on Algerians to get ready to face national security threats. In El Ancer area, north-eastern Jijel province, army 1 Dec reportedly killed three al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) combatants, including a regional commander and a member of AQIM’s consultative council; more clashes next day reportedly killed soldier; army 16 Dec alleged capturing another AQIM figure. Army 28 Dec said it had retrieved “slice of the ransom” cash – nearly $100,000 – allegedly paid out in Oct to free hostages held by jihadist groups in neighbouring Mali, during recent operation in Jijel province.
Les retombées économiques et sociales de la crise de Covid-19 et les mesures de confinement risquent de multiplier les défis auxquels l’Algérie est confrontée. Les autorités devraient desserrer leur étau sur la contestation populaire et établir un dialogue économique avec le hirak.
A groundswell of popular unrest has ended Bouteflika’s twenty-year rule and brought Algeria to a fork in the road. The regime should embark on substantive reforms and enter dialogue with protest leaders in order to prevent the cycle of mass protests and repressive counter-measures spiralling out of control.
Political paralysis in oil-dependent Algeria has blocked much-needed economic reform. To avoid a new era of instability, the government should increase transparency and accountability within state institutions and the private sector, as well as improve opportunities for the country’s burgeoning youth.
As waves of protests have hit the hydrocarbon-rich Algerian south since 2013, authorities maintained a tenuous peace through handouts, repression and policing. To calm tensions, the state needs to clarify policies, communicate with local protestors and address underlying issues of governance.
Algeria has emerged as an indispensable broker of stability in North Africa and the Sahel. But, especially as it enters a generational transition in domestic politics, it needs better strategies to deal with financial pressures, a neighbourhood in turmoil, cross-border jihadi threats, and ongoing tensions with France and Morocco. It should also resolve a presidential succession that is paralysing institutions.
This is the third of a series of briefings and reports on Islamism in North Africa. The first provided general background on the range and diversity of Islamic activism in the region, and subsequent papers examine with respect to particular states, the outlook and strategies of the main Islamist movements and organisations, their relations with the state and each other and how they have evolved. The analysis focuses on the relationship between Islamic activism and violence, especially but not only terrorism and the problem of political reform in general and democratisation in particular.
[...] here we have three crises -- economic, political and the virus -- potentially converging at a time when the population is still highly mobilized and trust in the [Algerian] state is low.
The [Algerian] protest movement could be made more determined in the future due to the economic and social consequences of the [COVID-19] restrictions, as well as the repression.
[The fall in oil prices] may not be so bad, if it is only for a month or two, but if it is for longer, [Algeria] will have to speed up its adoption of austerity measures.
The army and intelligence services [in Algeria] are still important but not as an autonomous pole of power.
Protests in Algeria are not about rule by one man but a system. One that has empowered a business class with close links to the state while progressively stifling economic and political liberties and excluding an earnest, educated youth.
A new wave of popular protests has jolted an already deeply unsettled Arab world. Nine years ago, uprisings across the region signalled a rejection of corrupt autocratic rule that failed to deliver jobs, basic services and reliable infrastructure. Yet regime repression and the protests’ lack of organisation, leadership and unified vision thwarted hopes of a new order. As suddenly as the uprisings erupted, as quickly they descended into violence. What followed was either brutal civil war or regime retrenchment. Tunisia stands as the sole, still fragile, exception.
Originally published in Valdai Club
Une série de protestations contre « le mandat de trop » s’est emparée du pays depuis l’annonce de la candidature du président Bouteflika à l’élection d'avril. Dans ce questions-réponses, notre analyste Michaël Ayari, de retour d’Algérie, se penche sur les ressorts d’une mobilisation inédite et examine les scénarios possibles.
Refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, have long been run by the Polisario movement, which seeks an independent state in Western Sahara, also claimed by Morocco. But a new generation of Sahrawi refugees is growing fractious as aid dwindles and diplomatic efforts fail to deliver a settlement.