Political Parties in Algeria
This article examines the different political parties in Algeria. We shall look at the parties within the context of the history of Algeria, and the current politics of Algeria. We shall discuss when each party formed, where they stand with regards to the current government, as well as the issues that each party advocates.
The National Liberation Front (FLN)
The primary political party in Algeria is the FLN (the Front de Liberation Nationale) (National Liberation Front). The FLN came to exist in the mid-1950s during the Algerian Civil War with the French colonialists. Following independence in the 1962, the FLN came to power, and has continued its hold on the government throughout the decades. Post-independence, they attempted to enact a number of social social reforms in the country. However, in the 1980s, many were upset with the lack of economic groups, and the few jobs in the country (high unemployment existed). It was at this time that an Islamist party, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) came about to challenge the FLN. The FLN, in order to appease the Algerian society, was willing to allow multiparty elections in the early 1990s. However, “In the December 1991 elections, it had 15 seats in the new assembly, with close to half of the voices of the FIS, which had obtained 188 with gerrymandering” (Addi, 2015). As a response, the government cancelled the then upcoming 1992 elections in January, which sparked a civil war.
The FLN, through the rise of Abdelaziz Bouteflika into power in 1999, has continued to be able to control the government of Algeria. In the May 2012 elections, the FLN won 220 seats out of the possible 462. Furthermore, not only are they active in politics, but it is believed that they have strong economic interests in the country as well; “Many Algerians say aging FLN leaders, business magnates and army generals – known as “Le Pouvoir” or “The Power,” in French – have long managed politics in behind-the-scenes negotiations and see themselves as guardians of stability” (Al Arabiya, 2014).
National Democratic Rally (Rassemblement National Democratique) (RND)
However, the FLN has not been the only political party in Algeria. The other major party is the RND. As Addi (2015) explains,
“General Mohamed Bechine, advisor to President Liamine Zeroual, set up a new party to support the president in elections. In record time, the new party disposed of offices, funds, and staff with a view to the legislative elections of June 1997. From its birth, the RND has attracted adherents motivated more by personal interest than by political conviction. Before elections, the party feverishly compiles electoral lists. This is often accompanied by local crises that give way to rows that make the front pages of newspapers….” (Addi, 2015: 443). In the 2012 elections, the RND won 70/462 seats. Coupled with the FLN’s 220/462, they have strong control of the government.
The Islamists In Algeria
The Islamic Salvation Front
One of the first Political Islamist parties to challenge the FLN was the Islamic Salvation Front, who formed in the 1980s. After doing quite well in the 1990 elections, and then again in the first round of the 1991 elections, the government cancelled the upcoming elections, which in turn led to outrage by the FIS. This was the beginning of a civil war in Algeria. It was in 1992 that many of the leaders of the FIS were arrested, and the party was outlawed in Algeria. And, “[s]ince its prohibition in March 1992, the FIS disappeared as a legal party. The leadership that remained after the arrests and the assassinations became divided after the Rome meeting failed. In September 1997, the Armee Islamique du Salut (AIS), an armed branch of the FIS, gave up its weapons and signed a truce with the DRS. Some supported the truce…while others…expressed reservations, hoping to negotiate a political settlement (Addi, 2015: 443). Today, the Islamic Salvation Front is not a current political party in Algeria, but one that warrants mentioning, in order to understand other political parties in the country.
The Movement for Society and Peace
The Movement for Society and Peace is another political Islamist party in Algeria. In the recent 2014 elections, the MSP, along with other Islamist parties (that I shall discuss below) only managed to win 47/462 seats. There have been accusations of government irregularities with regards to the elections, both in 2014, as well as the early election in 2009. In terms of the MSP, Addi (2015) says that the party “is rather legalist. It has participated in all the polls and has accepted cabinet posts. its founder, Mahfoud Nahnah, who died in June 2003, attempted to establish an Islamic state, while participating in the regime’s institutions…” (444), although others within the MSP have moved more away from the notion of an Islamic state as a goal of the MSP. In terms of their popularity, “[t]he party essentially recruits from the urban middle classes, among the civil servants and teachers” (444). They have also been criticized in Algeria for being too accepting of the authoritarian FLN (Addi, 2015).
Al Arabiya (2014). Bouteflika wins 4th term as Algerian president. Friday, April 18 2014. Available Online: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2014/04/18/Algeria-s-Bouteflika-camp-claims-election-win.html