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 chef de l’Etat algérien, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a convoqué des élections législatives anticipées qui se tiendront le 12 juin. Dans ce Q&A, l’expert de Crisis Group Michael Ayari explique pourquoi ce scrutin pourrait marquer l’entrée dans une nouvelle phase d’instabilité.
President Tebboune pursued appeasement policy toward political opponents, and tensions continued to run high with Morocco over Western Sahara. Presidency 3 April said Tebboune had pardoned over 1,000 convicts on occasion of Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and ordered provisional release of 70 people detained for links to Hirak protest movement. Political activist and Hirak member Hakim Debbazi 24 April died while in pre-trial detention at Kolea prison in capital Algiers; cause of death unclear. Authorities 29 April arrested leading opposition figure Karim Tabbou on undisclosed charges. Trials of former President Bouteflika-era politicians and businessmen continued. Court 13 April sentenced former PMs Abdelmalek Sellal and Ahmed Ouyahia to five and four years in prison respectively for “squandering of public funds” and “abuse of office for the purpose of granting undue advantages”. Govt 12 April accused Morocco of killing three civilians in 10 April drone strikes in disputed Western Sahara near Mauritanian border; Algerian special envoy for Western Sahara and Maghreb countries, Amar Belani, 14 April denounced “targeted assassinations” and “repeated acts of state terrorism”, warned “possible spillover” of Moroccan “warmongering” into Algerian territory will be considered casus belli (see Western Sahara). Amid deteriorating relations with Spain over Western Sahara, Algiers offered new energy partnership to Italy: state-owned oil and gas company Sonatrach and Italian energy company ENI 11 April signed cooperation agreement in Algiers to increase amount of gas exported from Algeria to Italy. Govt 27 April threatened to suspend gas exports to Spain if Madrid transferred it onward to “a third destination” as latter reportedly set to help Rabat to “guarantee its energy security”. Algiers 7 April voted against resolution suspending Russia from UN Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine, arguing UN mechanisms need to inquire on site in Ukraine.
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.
Israel's alliance with Morocco could mean that in the long-term Rabat becomes militarily superior to Algiers and dominant in the region.
[...] 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.