Rulers and power groups
Army and FLN
The ethnic, social and geographical heterogeneity is very great in Algeria. Therefore it is above all the institution of the army that claims to guarantee the cohesion of the country, occupies the key positions and controls the country’s resources. It drew its legitimacy from its role in the war of liberation against France, represents a state within a state and was originally the armed arm of the FLN. Until the current President Bouteflika’s first term in 1999, Algeria’s presidents were army officers.
All young men of military age have to do 18 months of military service, often far from home, then are available as reservists and are called up for military exercises.
The key positions in business and administration are evidently not only assigned according to qualification, but also distributed among the ruling circles. Relationships decide. The dominant role of the traditional ruling classes and the former FLN unity party since independence has not really been lost, rather concessions have been made according to the motto “divide and rule” and other power groups have been included in the group of beneficiaries. This includes above all the Islamists, insofar as they operate legally.
According to constructmaterials, a strong and sometimes decisive role in the internal power struggles is attributed by some observers to the Algerian secret service DRS. He is said to have penetrated the Islamist terrorist group GIA with agents and partly controlled it during the civil war in the 1990’s. He is also accused of having been involved in the kidnapping of Europeans (e.g. in the kidnapping of two Austrians in Tunisia) and of partly inciting Islamic terror himself.
Islamists and Islamization
The industrialization policy of Houari Boumedienne led to a strong urbanization, but also cultural uprooting, thousands poured into the cities. As a result of the “sectoral imbalance”, industrialization was not matched by adequate production of consumer goods and agriculture fell into disrepair; In particular, however, residential construction lagged behind demand. When the oil price fell, the uprooted city dwellers were abandoned to poverty and represented a basin for Islamist ideologies. This potential was represented by the Islamist FIS, which at the same time became a synonym for the fight against nepotism and corruption and insofar traditional Islamic values with ” linked to modern “jihadist ideology.
After the catastrophe of the civil war, militant jihadist Islamism was discredited. The so-called moderate forces set off on the “march through the institutions” and are now integrated into the regime and the presidential government alliance.
In addition, tolerance towards other religions is alien at least to Islamist ideology; rather, they are marginalized and referred to a status of “ dhimmi ”, ie someone who can be tolerated with limited rights.
Regionalism and Kabylia
A modern variant of traditional Berber civilization is most likely cultivated in Kabylia, where cultural independence from the claims of the central power is greatest, as the Algerian-Kabyle writer Boualem Sansal explains. Investments in infrastructure and education were particularly low here; the regime has kept the Kabyle on a particularly short leash; suppressed their language and forced Arabization and Islamization. The frustration that has built up over decades has solidified into profound dissatisfaction and even separatist tones are not uncommon. In addition, the Kabyle people everywhere are valued more than other population groups as productive workers and have a good reputation in this regard.
Power struggles within the “Seraglio”
On September 13, 2015, it was announced that General Taoufik, the chief of the intelligence service, previously considered to be almost all-powerful, had been removed from his post and replaced by an officer more comfortable with the president. This process was perceived as a domestic political earthquake and triggered a wave of sometimes wild speculation about the non-transparent background.
Accordingly, since the beginning of his term in office, Abdelaziz Bouteflika had intended to curtail the influence of the army and secret services and to reserve all real power for himself and his clan (“Clan d’Oujda”). This group included the former President Boumedienne and Bouteflika himself.
The secret service DRS has therefore proven to be too independent for the president’s clan both in the fight against terrorism and in the fight against corruption. In 2010, the state-owned energy company Sonatrach became the target of anti-corruption investigations and the entire company management lost their posts. The head of Sonatrach, a confidante of the President, the former Energy Secretary Chakib Khelil, then fled to the United States; Since then he has been banned from traveling “for medical reasons”. This procedure – also during the president’s illness and his months of hospitalization in 2013 – was understood by the president’s “seraglio” – or by himself – as an attack; through a series of layoffs, dubious arrests and changes in the law were increasingly withdrawn from the intelligence service. All that was left was an empty shell (“ coquille vide ”).
The officially launched version that civil power ultimately prevailed against non-transparent secret structures is not very credible. Fears that the fight against Islamist terrorism – in view of the rise of ISIS – and the fight against corruption could be damaged, however, appear justified. As in other Arab countries, there is also a lack of transparent, legitimate procedures for transferring power in Algeria; at the moment, the president’s brother Said Bouteflika seems to be pulling the strings in the background.
The regular government reshuffles – the last one took place in mid-June 2016 – reinforce the impression of opacity and lead to speculation about power struggles within the “Seraglio” without having any lasting effects. It should be clear that the scope for investment and social spending is currently shrinking increasingly.