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Liamine Zeroual

Faced with the real possibility of a sweeping FIS victory, the National People's Assembly was dissolved by presidential decree on January 4, 1992. On January 11, under pressure from the military leadership, President Chadli Bendjedid resigned. On January 14, a five-member High Council of State was appointed by the High Council of Security to act as a collegiate presidency and immediately canceled the second round of elections. This action, coupled with political uncertainty and economic turmoil, led to a violent reaction by Islamists.

On January 16, Mohamed Boudiaf, a hero of the Liberation War, returned after 28 years of exile to serve as Algeria's fourth president. Facing sporadic outbreaks of violence and terrorism, the security forces took control of the FIS offices in early February, and the High Council of State declared a state of emergency. In March, following a court decision, the FIS Party was formally dissolved, and a series of arrests and trials of FIS members occurred resulting in more than 50,000 members being jailed. Algeria became caught in a cycle of violence, which became increasingly random and indiscriminate. On June 29, 1992, President Boudiaf was assassinated in Annaba in front of TV cameras by Army Lt. Lembarek Boumarafi, who allegedly confessed to carrying out the killing on behalf of the Islamists.

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.

After having been elected by the members of the army-backed National Conference for the Transitory Period, Liamine Zeroual was appointed to serve a 3-year transition term as President of the state by the High Security Council on January 30, 1994. Zeroual continued as Defense Minister, a circumstance that suggested to some that there was little likelihood for a change in policy towards the fundamentalists and great likelihood for a pessimistic future for Algeria as the cycle continued.

Zeroual, a veteran of the War of Independence, exercised wide powers to negotiate with the FIS and other insurgents. Surprisingly, in office Zeroual stressed that the only way to resolve Algeria's crisis would come through dialogue with all the political forces in the country. He engaged in negotiations with the imprisoned FIS leaders in order to end the ongoing violence and to restore stability within the country. However, the failure of those negotiations in October 1994 led Zeroual to look for other ways to deal with the opposition. These consisted of a number of steps to rehabilitate the state and its institutions. The first step was the holding of a presidential election.

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. The November 1995 multi-candidate Presidential elections were considered by observers and the opposing candidates to have produced the real election of a legitimate President, Liamine Zeroual. When he was elected in 1995, President Zeroual pledged to support a policy of economic and political reform, freedom of the press, and development of the rule of law. The United States strongly supported this policy as enunciated by Zeroual.

In February 1995, President Liamine Zeroual decreed measures of pardon for those who were prosecuted for subversive and terrorist crimes, and who surrendered themselves to the authorities. Those who joined terrorist groups and who did not commit murders and did not cause permanent disability and moral or physical damage to citizens, and those who returned back the weapons and the explosives they had to the authorities would not be prosecuted. The terrorists who did commit crimes will see their penalty reduced.

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. The national legislative elections held in June 1997 were also broadly representative, and Algeria invited international observers. There were allegations of fraud. Yet, this historic election, by no means completely free and fair, produced the first multi-party Parliament in Algerian history, including a wide spectrum of opposition voices. The following city and provincial council elections in October 1997 had no international observers. There were wide-spread allegations of fraud and vote-rigging. The results of these elections sent opposition Members into the streets in protest. Some of these protests may be overstated. Whatever the precise facts, the indirectly elected Upper House is clearly not as representative of the overall body politic in Algeria as the Lower House. Despite these difficulties in putting these new institutions into place, there have been indications that the newly elected Lower House is taking its legislative and oversight duties appropriately seriously.

In September 1998, President Liamine Zeroual announced that he would step down in February 1999, 21 months before the end of his five year term, and that presidential elections would be held. Algerians went to the polls in April 1999, following a campaign in which seven candidates qualified for election. On the eve of the election, all candidates except Abdelaziz Bouteflika pulled out amid charges of widespread electoral fraud. Bouteflika, the candidate who appeared to enjoy the backing of the military, as well as the FLN and the RND party regulars, won with an official vote count of 70% of all votes cast.



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