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Algeria - Presidential System

Ahmed Ben Bella 29 Sep 196219 Jun 1965
Houari Boumedienne 19 Jun 196527 Dec 1978
Rabah Bitat 27 Dec 197809 Feb 1979
Chadli Bendjedid 09 Feb 197911 Jan 1992
High State Council14 Jan 199231 Jan 1994
Muhammad Boudiaf 16 Jan 199229 Jun 1992
Ali Kafi 02 Jul 199231 Jan 1994
Liamine Zeroual31 Jan 199427 Apr 1999
Abdelaziz Bouteflika27 Apr 199902 Apr 2019
Abdelkader Bensalah02 Apr 201901 Jul 2019
Chakib Khelil ???2019 ?? 202?
Of its official name "Popular and Democratic Algerian Republic", with "Algiers" as its capital, it has been, since its independence, governed by eight heads of state, the last of whom, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, elected at universal suffrage in 1999. Constitutional provisions have historically concentrated almost all major powers of the state in the hands of the executive. The original constitution specified more than twenty powers over which the president had sole authority. Leadership qualities of the individual presidents have augmented these constitutional prerogatives and facilitated the development of an essentially authoritarian system. In 1989 the new constitution created a "state of law," relying on a strong executive capable of implementing the political liberalization necessary to democratize Algeria.

The political triangle of army-party-state that has governed Algeria since independence underwent significant changes under the liberal reforms of Benjedid: a new constitution was adopted, the constitutionally protected role of the FLN eliminated, and the authoritarian lock on society loosened. Events since January 1992, however, have not only reversed those reforms but also reasserted the central and preeminent role of the military in the government. Algeria has been under a "state of emergency" almost since the coup through late 1993, allowing the state to suspend almost all rule of law. Although the civil institutions remained in existence, Algeria in late 1993 was essentially a military autocracy whose only functioning authority was the HCE and an advisory body called the National Consultative Council (Conseil Consultatif National--CCN). Created in February 1992 by presidential decree following the dissolution of the APN, the CCN was intended, in the absence of a working parliament, to function as an institutional framework for enacting legislation. In practice, it was little more than a rubber stamp for the HCE's proposals.

The greatest beneficiary of the constitutional revisions was the office of president. The 1989 constitution established a "state of law," accentuating the role of the executive and, specifically, the president, at the expense of the FLN. The president, having the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister at will, and maintaining singular authority over military affairs, emerged as the dominant force. The FLN became but one of many political parties. The responsibilities of the army were limited to defense and external security. Moreover, the army was obliged to become less visible because of its role in suppressing the October 1988 revolts.

The 1989 constitution further strengthened the presidential system at the expense of both the party and the army. As head of state, head of the High Judicial Council, commander in chief of the armed forces, and chairman of all legislative meetings, the president has effective control over all state institutions. The president appoints and dismisses the prime minister and all other nonelected civilian and military officials. The APN votes on the president's choice, but if the president's nominations are rejected twice, the assembly is dissolved. The actions of the prime minister become the responsibility of the APN although they may not have been validated by it. Only the president can initiate constitutional amendments. The president may bypass the APN by submitting legislation of "national importance" directly to a national referendum. In fact, Benjedid's third term in office consisted largely of legislation issued through his Council of Ministers, essentially rule by decree.

Despite efforts to restore the political process, violence and terrorism dominated the Algerian landscape during the 1990s. In 1994, Liamine Zeroual, former Minister of Defense, was appointed Head of State by the High Council of State for a three-year term. During this period, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) launched terrorist campaigns against government figures and institutions to protest the banning of the Islamist parties. A breakaway GIA group--the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC)--also undertook terrorist activity in the country. Government officials estimate that more than 150,000 Algerians died during this period.

Zeroual called for presidential elections in 1995, though some parties objected to holding elections that excluded the FIS. Zeroual was elected president with 75% of the vote. By 1997, in an attempt to bring political stability to the nation, the National Democratic Rally (RND) party was formed by a progressive group of FLN members. In September 1998, President Liamine Zeroual announced that he would step down in February 1999, 21 months before the end of his term, and that presidential elections would be held.

By 2007 Major General Mohamed Mediene, the powerful head of the intelligence and security services, was working to favor former Prime Minister Ouyahia as the eventual successor to President Bouteflika. Opinions varied as to whether Ouyahia will become Bouteflika's heir.

Algeria has long been governed, alternately more and less behind the scenes, by varying groups of men known collectively as "le pouvoir" ("the power"). In recent years, it had become increasingly clear that the "pouvoir" consistrf primarily of Mediene and Bouteflika. With Bouteflika's health in question, Mediene appeared to be providing much behind-the-scenes guidance and influence on Algeria's future direction. Mediene was making preparations for Ouyahia to succeed President Bouteflika even though the latter "hates Ouyahia." It appeared that Mediene aimed to have Ouyahia replace Belkhadem as prime minister following the May 2007 elections and planned to thwart Belkhadem's presidential ambitions by moving him to the senate. As prime minister, Ouyahia would push constitutional changes through parliament to create a vice presidential post, which he would then occupy to await Bouteflika's departure.

The possible successors –Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal; interior minister Tayeb Belaiz; or former Prime Minister Mouloud Hamrouche all lack support from key power brokers. The presidential faction, the army, and pro-regime businessmen are unwilling to put forward names at an stage. The emergence of a new contender for succession, interior minister Tayed Belaiz, 66, marked a new development in the political scene.

Bouteflika’s clan, headed by his brother Said, embarked on a drive to curb the powers of the country’s security establishment. Bouteflika’s dismissal of intelligence chief General Mohamed “Toufik” Mediene, who held the post for 25 years, marked the beginning of a well prepared and well executed reform in the powerful security and intelligence offices in the country. By 2016 the establishment in Algeria was working on arrangements for the succession to ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is thought unlikely to be able to serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in 2019.

Saïd Bouteflika might succeed his brother Abdelaziz as president. Saïd Bouteflika was born on 1957 in Oujda, French Morocco. Saïd Bouteflika held the officials position of special advisor to the president. He had been his “brother’s keeper” since the President’s aneurysm. According to several Algerian activists, some close to the military establishment, Saïd was the brain behind the throne.

Several hints had been dropped in the press by pro-Bouteflika outlets and anti-regime journalists to support or attack this idea. The presidential faction’s preferred plan was to have Saïd Bouteflika succeed his brother as president, but before putting his name forward the regime needed to clear the way for this transition. Said Bouteflika, the president’s younger brother who simultaneously conducted his brother’s medical care and the country’s day-to-day life, reportedly wanted to succeed his elder brother. Said Bouteflika had the support of Algerian economic “barons” but was disliked by the army. It was said that army chief of staff General Ahmed Gaid Salah backed Said even though the rest of the army did not. Gaid Salah was well known for his brutality and narrow-mindedness; he was the most powerful of Said’s cabal.

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Page last modified: 05-04-2019 18:56:00 ZULU