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Part 3 What Kind of Government: Civilian or Military?, 3.4 The Grip of the Army on Algeria’s Political System

Madjid Benchikh

From: Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Islam after the Arab Spring

Rainer Grote, Tilmann J. Röder

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 07 June 2023

(p. 369) 3.4  The Grip of the Army on Algeria’s Political System

I.  Introduction

There are many countries where the army has played or still plays an important and even a predominant role in political life. The circumstances under which the army comes to power obviously differ from country to country, as do the institutions and policies they usher in. Regardless of the particular characteristics of the army’s place and role in a country’s political system, it is apparent that, in every case, the political systems they have established are authoritarian in nature. Although this article will only discuss the place and role of the army in the Algerian political system, it is useful to recall interventions by armies in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and sometimes even in Europe. Although the aim is to examine, through the role of the army, the forms and content of the authoritarian political system, one should constantly keep democratic principles and laws in mind—partly because for several decades, many armies, in particular in Algeria, have been saying that it is these principles they want to apply, and partly because democracy has been a central demand of popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East during the Arab Spring, which puts it squarely on the agenda. This article will discuss the authoritarianism of a political system militarized by the grip, stranglehold even, of the army, but in order to explain the situation it is worth considering how the democratic rights of populations are violated as a result. In the political and legal spheres that are our own, the reality of the army’s role in the political system cannot be understood by relying solely on the rhetoric of those in government or the provisions of the laws that they have promulgated. In Algeria, the army has no political power under the terms of the constitution. However, this article will show that it does in fact exert a strong, indisputable grip on all the country’s institutions. Both in the single-party framework that existed from 1963 to (p. 370) 1989, and the multiparty framework that has been in place from 1989 to date, the army has remained at the center of a system that its leaders, having established it, continue to direct. This is why understanding the Algerian political system requires us first to examine the place and role of the army in said system. This in turn is a difficult task because unlike its counterparts in many other countries, the Algerian Military Command neither claims to exert nor admits to exerting power. The Algerian army is careful to take center stage only very rarely and for relatively short periods of time. Both under the single-party system established shortly after the declaration of independence on July 5, 1962, in the 1963 Constitution, and during the multiparty system established by the constitutions of February 1989 and November 1996, the Military Command has denied the execution of any significant political power within the country. On the contrary, it claims that the army is at the service of and under the civilian authority of the Republic. The Algerian political system has deliberately presented itself as a democratic, nonauthoritarian system based on a democratic constitution, both under the single-party system and in the current multiparty context. The constitutions developed by the leaders after independence, as well as the National Charters (the Algiers Charter of 1964 and the Algerian National Charter of 1976), describe Algeria as a democratic regime in which the army does not exert any political powers. However, neither these core texts nor the rhetoric of the leaders are consistent with the political practice. We will see, for example, that in Algeria no President of the Republic—the core of the institutional system—has ever been nominated or elected without the consent of the Military Command. Moreover, the President of the Republic is not the only authority which is subject to this method of selection for the execution of important power.

It follows from these observations that it is not possible to analyze the role of the army simply by looking at the provisions of the constitution or examining the political rhetoric; the methodology of this article will need to include an examination of political practice in order to discover how the system works. When looking at the historical background, one might wonder how the Algerian people, who were able to organize and lead a renowned war of national liberation against the army of a superpower to live freely, ended up living under a militarized authoritarian regime. To shed light on this question, one must look at how the army, or more precisely the Military Command, established itself in political life in order to finally construct a system over which it could exert its grip. To explain the army’s role in or grip on the Algerian political system, the author will first examine the circumstances under which the army established itself (Part II) and then how it currently exerts power (Part III).

II.  The Circumstances Leading to the Army’s Grip on the Algerian Political System

In Algeria, the question of the army’s place in political life was raised and discussed within the organizations of the revolution even before the country’s independence. The question was not posed in the same way before the revolution as it was after the gaining of independence. The questions concerning the relationship between the military and politics remain, however, even when they are not being discussed.

A.  The Army’s Role in the Nationalist Movement and during the Fight for Independence

As early as 1947, the nationalist movement, through the intermediary of the Algerian People’s Party (APP), created a military organization called the Special Organization (p. 371) (SO).1 In fact, it was the political authority, the APP, who decided to establish the Special Organization and put individuals, chosen from among its main leaders, in charge of it. The military body was thus formally placed under the authority of the political organization and was run by political activists. This doubtlessly is what participants of the first Congress of the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the National Liberation Army, which was held in al-Ṣūmām in August 1956, would call “the superiority of the polity over the military”. This article shall later return to the circumstances in which this principle would be applied during the war of liberation. Insofar as the Special Organization is concerned, it is worth noting the manner in which Muḥammad Balwizdād and especially Ḥusayn Āyt Aḥmad, who succeeded him, operated at the heads of this organization. In terms of organization, recruitment, training, and the search for weapons, Āyt Aḥmad, who became head of the Special Organization, was the key instigator, both in theoretical and practical terms. As is often the case in clandestine and repressive circumstances, it is difficult to be specific as to the superiority of civilian or political power over military power. But there are other more important questions.

First of all, we can point out, as others have done,2 that the president of the AAP, Maṣālī al-Ḥāj, distrusted the Special Organization. Maṣālī and some political leaders wanted to keep control of the organization of young people whom they considered too militant and who seemed to get carried away. In fact, some of these young militants later formed the “Group of 22”, who decided to resort to armed struggle against French colonialism, while others united in the “Group of Nine”, who began the armed fight on November 1, 1954. However, none of these militants resorting to violence can be characterized as soldiers.3 As G. Meynier writes, “the matrix of the FLN stems from the SO”. This also holds true for the first groups in the National Liberation Army (ALN), insofar as they predominantly comprised former activists of the SO. The initial architecture of the ALN was the result of the work done by the Special Organization and its activists. In practice, the superiority of the “military” thus seems established.

However, any clear separation of the military from the polity within the national liberation movement must not be overestimated, or systematized. Even during the entire period devoted to military-style organization, training, and implementation, those at the head of (p. 372) the Special Organization, in particular its founder, Āyt Aḥmad, never stopped thinking of themselves as political activists. This partly explains why from the very beginning a distinction was made between the FLN, a political organization, and the ALN, a military-style organization—even though it was only after the Ṣūmām Congress in 1956 that the military’s rules of engagement, modus operandi, and ranks were clearly enunciated. This article will try to explain the implications of the principle according to which polity would have superiority over the military, as decided by the Ṣūmām Congress.

The fact that this principle was adopted by the Congress must first and foremost be viewed positively, due to its suggestions that political efforts were to take precedence, both in terms of the mobilization of the people and diplomatic efforts to isolate France and promote, through the FLN, the prospect of independence. The principle of the superiority of the polity over the military did not flow from a desire to exclude those in charge of the ALN from decision-making. In the context of a war of liberation, an approach of that kind would have undoubtedly been fatal to the resistance. The heads of the wilāyah, or military regions, were the colonels of the ALN who exercised political and military responsibilities within the geographical limits of their respective wilāyah. The Ṣūmām Congress implicitly confirmed this practice through accepting that its members could also hold the posts of colonels or commanders in the ALN, thus simultaneously acting as political and military leaders.4

However, the principle of the polity’s superiority over the military continued to be of critical importance as the armed struggle intensified, the battle zones grew larger, and the number of fighters increased. In addition to the arguments mentioned above concerning the importance of the political fight domestically and at the international level, there was also a need to coordinate initiatives and to prevent the wilāyah heads from setting themselves up as warlords of their own regions. This seems to point to the fact that the leaders recognized that the military must not subjugate populations by force and that the army must serve the political plan, thereby promoting the construction of a nonmilitarized state, as a precursor to the construction of a democratic state.

Gradually, the conditions of war on the ground and the assassinations of two leaders who were key advocates of this principle, al-ʿArabī Ben Mahidī (who was assassinated by the French Army), and ʿAbān Ramḍān (who was killed by ALN colonels carrying out a plot), served to ensure that the colonels were predominantly involved in the execution of the Algerian revolution. The Coordination and Implementation Committee (CCE) and subsequently the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA, hereinafter Provisional Government) did not have the means to control what was happening on the ground in any meaningful way. Once the colonels had disposed of ʿAbān, whose level of influence they had feared, they took decisions without bothering to obtain the permission of other members of the Provisional Government, even outside Algerian territory. Both external direction and internal resistance were therefore controlled by “soldiers”. Even before the country’s independence, the principle of the superiority of the polity over the military had turned into empty words.

On the eve of independence, and in particular after the signing of the Evian Accords March 19, 1962, the depletion of the forces, composed of internal resistance fighters, and the existence of an organized military force on the territories of Tunisia and Morocco (p. 373) allowed what was known as the “Frontier Army” (l’armée des frontières) to impose its choices more and more effectively. Finally, the Frontier Army took over power following Algeria’s Independence.

Without going into the various conflicting ideas and competing personalities that led to the predominance of first the colonels, the original intention of the then Frontier Army behind the recruitment of the junūd (soldiers) to the Tunisian and Moroccan Frontier was to provide the guerrilla fighters in the internal ALN with trained armed forces. Unfortunately, the French Army succeeded in establishing huge electrified fences and surveillance that made moving weapons and troops extremely difficult. An external General Staff was thus constituted at the Frontier, which took advantage of the divides and disagreements which were known to exist between the ministers of the Provisional Government. Another influencing factor was that some of the leaders of the General Staff were eager to play an important role in the revolution.5 Particularly during the last year of the armed struggle, the General Staff of the Frontier Army was constantly asserting its power and its ambition. Since they were not responsible for any actions which occurred during the fighting, they could afford to criticize the Provisional Government. The General Staff also challenged the Provisional Government’s claim to exercise authority over the ALN in its entirety, the Frontier Army, and the Army of the Interior. In order to undermine the Provisional Government, the Frontier Army publicly held them responsible for: the failings of the resistance within the country, problems with the Tunisian authorities, and the supposed or real inconsistencies of certain ministers, in particular at the level of the Inter-ministerial Liaison Committee. Claiming to be more nationalistic than the others, the General Staff also openly criticized the Evian Accords of March 19, 1962, which were concluded between the French government and the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic. The General Staff tried to give the impression that it would have done a better job at defending the interests of the revolution by ensuring greater independence from France. Relations between the Provisional Government and the General Staff of the Frontier Army were such that coexistence became impossible. Eventually, the Provisional Government made the decision to disband the General Staff of the Frontier Army, but this tardy decision, taken on the eve of independence at a time when many leaders were preoccupied with the accession to power and seeking out the alliances that would get them there, remained a dead letter.6

After the Evian Accords, even before independence was declared, the General Staff of the Frontier Army no longer disguised its intention to play a key role in the independent state. It sought alliances everywhere—within the Wilāyāt of the interior and among the key political leaders. It won considerable support, amongst personalities such as Aḥmad Ben Bellah, one of the nine historic leaders of the revolution, and Farḥat ʿAbbās, the former president of the Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto (UDMA), a political party, and former president of the Provisional Government. Other political or military leaders shilly-shallied or made up their minds based on what would be most profitable for them personally, rather than considering the nature of the state which the respective groups were planning to found, and without paying attention to the political plans of those with whom they were forming an alliance. After the ceasefire agreed on in the Evian Accords of March 19, 1962, the General Staff commanded by Colonel Huwārī Būmadyan decided to move the troops of the Frontier Army back into Algeria. Thanks to the various alliances that it (p. 374) had managed to forge and due to the neutrality of the leaders, Colonel Būmadyan gradually came to be seen as the leading power in independent Algeria. It was in this context that some wilāyah leaders (ALN of the interior) in the East and West of the country rallied or stood by without responding. Wilāyah IV, at the center of the country and close to the capital, confronted the Frontier Army in fratricidal and murderous battles. These one-sided battles affirmed the superiority of the Frontier Army. Gradually, all the forces that had joined or supported the command led by Colonel Būmadyan established themselves and played the most important role in the foundation of the structures of the new state.

B.  The Frontier Army Marches towards the Control of Power after Independence

However, it should not be concluded that Colonel Būmadyan had complete power from then on. The situation was too complex, too unstable, and too delicate to allow him to establish himself unchallenged. Moreover, he was little known and had no political experience. For this reason, he got back in touch with key nationalist leaders such as Āyt Aḥmad, Aḥmad Ben Bellah, Muḥammad Būḍiyāf, and Muḥammad Khīḍar, even before they were released by France. Only Ben Bellah explicitly agreed to cooperate with him, hoping no doubt to outclass him thanks to his popularity and his earlier legitimacy in the liberation movement. The National Council of the Algerian Revolution, convened in Tripoli after the signature of the Evian Accords, failed to reach consensus and the decisions it took were badly worded, so that everybody went away thinking they could carry on as before. In Tlemcen, the General Staff and Colonel Būmadyan backed Ben Bellah, Farḥat ʿAbbās, Khīḍar, and other FLN political leaders, while other key leaders, including Āyt Aḥmad, Būḍiyāf, and Krīm Belqāsim—to mention only the most well-known—sought to drum up forces to contain the former group or to get rid of them. The FLN completely collapsed. As one of the leaders of the French Federation of the FLN says, the summer of 1962 really was “the summer of discord”.7

But the divisions within the FLN as a political organization also applied to the ALN as the internal military organization. Without going into the details here (these can be found in the various works cited previously), the colonels, the wilāyah chiefs, responded in various ways, both to the stand taken by Būmadyan as chief of the General Staff of the Frontier Army against the Provisional Government and to the use of force by the Frontier Army against Wilāyah IV and the collapse of the FLN.

In 1962, following the signature of the Evian Accords and the cessation of hostilities, Algeria was left damaged by a war of liberation that had lasted for more than seven years, as well as by a chaotic political and military situation that had resulted from the divisions between the leaders of the FLN and ALN and the use of force by the General Staff. No other force had been able to pull together the military or political means to thwart the General Staff’s efforts. Even the General Union of Algerian Workers, a trade union organization set up by FLN trade union activists at the initiative of ʿAyssāt Idīr, decided not to back either of the protagonists and adopted the slogan “seven years, that’s enough”, thus seeming to dismiss the various players equally. This position of neutrality benefited the party that was (p. 375) strongest on the ground, which is to say the General Staff under Colonel Būmadyan and his allies, of whom Ben Bellah, Khīḍar, and ʿAbbās were the most prominent.

After independence was declared on July 5, 1962, Ben Bellah, the main ally of the General Staff, was made president of the governing council, with Būmadyan as vice president and minister of defense. Several younger members of the General Staff, promoted by Būmadyan, were appointed as ministers despite being unknown and lacking any political experience, among them Aḥmad Madaghrī (interior), Sharīf Belqāsim (education), and ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Būteflīqah (tourism). But his allies also took on important posts, notably ministerial roles: The National Constituent Assembly was presided over by Farḥat ʿAbbās; Khīḍar, a former historic leader, was appointed general secretary of FLN, which was extensively restructured under the new balance of power.

The first reshuffle began in 1963. ʿAbbās, president of the National Constituent Assembly, resigned following the adoption of the constitution under the aegis of a group in the party without his involvement. Al-Ḥāj Ben Allāh, loyal to Ben Bellah, was appointed president of the National Assembly. Following disagreements with Ben Bellah, Khīḍār, the general secretary of FLN, left the party and went into exile abroad. His place was taken by Ben Bellah, who thus accumulated the functions of President of the Republic, president of the Council, and general secretary of the only party (FLN).

Būḍiyāf, the coordinator of the group of historic leaders who had decided to declare the war of liberation on November 1, 1954, was arrested and then released. He was the first to establish an opposition party (the Socialist Revolution Party) and sought refuge in Morocco. Āyt Aḥmad created the Socialist Forces Front and conducted a resistance army from 1963 to 1965, before being imprisoned near Algiers, from where he escaped and fled to Switzerland. The rebellion by Colonel Shaʿbānī of the liberation army in the wilāyah in the south of the country was scaled down. His trial, before an improvised military tribunal, ended in his execution. The war declared against Algeria by Morocco in 1963 made any opposition to or dissidence against the establishment even more difficult. The head of the ALN’s Wilāyah III, Colonel Muḥand ʾŪlhāj, who had supported the rebellion led by Āyt Aḥmad, rejoined the establishment to fight the Moroccan attack. Ben Bellah took advantage of this to seize the extraordinary powers afforded to him by the constitution in such circumstances. Būmadyan, with staff chosen by him, led the organization of the People’s National Army (ANP). The Ben Bellah-Būmadyan duo seemed to be triumphing.

But disagreements quickly built up, as became apparent when it came to choosing staff and ministers. The decisions by Ben Bellah—President of the Republic, president of the council, and the general secretary of the only political party—to appoint a chief of staff of the new ANP, and then to dismiss ministers close to Būmadyan (Madaghrī, minister for the interior; Būteflīqa, minister of foreign affairs) convinced Būmadyan to take action, no doubt for fear that he would in turn be dismissed himself. On June 19, 1965, Colonel Būmadyan—minister of defense and vice president of the Council—arrested the head of state, the president of the National Assembly, and some ministers and staff members who were close to Ben Bellah or hostile to the coup. The constitution, already suspended by Ben Bellah, remained suspended under Būmadyan, who appointed a “Council of the Revolution” composed of his cronies and padded out with some allies who had abandoned Ben Bellah. Colonel Būmadyan became president of the Council of the Revolution and head of state and remained minister of defense. From that point on, there was no civilian rival to the Military Command for the exercise of power. However, the exercise of power without the constraint of consistent civilian political power did not mean that struggles for power could not arise within the military itself.

In 1967, the army chief of staff, al-Ṭāhar Zbīrī, decided to stage a coup against Būmadyan. He succeeded in mobilizing some of the army and made for Algiers, but was stopped by the (p. 376) air force. Colonel Sayyid ʿAbīd, the commander of the military region of Algiers-Blīdah who had refused to allow the troops under his command to take part in this attempt, died under suspicious circumstances. All political and administrative staff suspected of being close to the instigator of the attempted coup were fired. From that point on, Colonel Būmadyan controlled all the powers in the country, which would remain without a constitution until 1976. He was the undisputed chief of the army and of the executive. The army’s grip on the political system, despite the civilian government, was henceforth firmly established.

These various stages that mark the success of Colonel Būmadyan’s march toward hegemonic power should suffice to show that the Military Command is at the heart of Algeria’s political system. In Algeria, this conclusion has to be acknowledged, despite the claims of the Military Command leader that the army is in the service of the political powers and that it does not govern the country. This argument would at first glance seem to be made all the more credible by the fact that almost all ministers, heads of administration, and company heads are civilians. This means that on the question of the role of the army in the political system, not only is there an official rhetoric that denies that the army plays any political role, but there is also a semblance of an almost exclusively civilian composition of the government and various institutions. Būmadyan himself stopped appearing in military uniform. His military successors have followed this rule strictly. Whenever an officer is appointed as the head of a ministry or an important institution, he leaves the employment of the military and becomes a civilian, although he of course remains close to the army. This particular point naturally serves to strengthen the appearance of the government and other various institutions being mainly civilian, which is the intention if the political role of the army is to be denied. But it also makes it possible to avoid the risk of officers promoted to political roles getting ideas about trying to obtain more influence than they are given in a particular sector. Moreover, in an authoritarian political system, where the most important political personalities may be behind the scenes, ministers often do not play a genuinely political role: Instead, ministers are managers of economic and social sectors and not political leaders.

Certainly, the Military Command, as we have shown, cannot deny that it has intervened to support or dismiss groups or individuals, or much more seriously, to oust the President of the Republic as it did in June 1965. It will also be demonstrated that following the transformation of the system through the 1989 Constitution and the adoption of a multiparty system, the Military Command intervened in January 1992 to cancel the elections and pressure the President of the Republic, al-Shādhlī Ben Jadīd, into resigning. However, the Military Command, except in the case of the coup against Ben Bellah, has justified its interventions by claiming that it was only acting on government decisions. The Military Command also denies that it chooses heads of state before having them elected by universal suffrage; it denies any interference in favor of any candidate to the elected assemblies or the presidency of the Republic. This shows how much the Algerian army wants to maintain a civilian façade. Therefore, this article will have to look beyond the rhetoric and examine how the political system actually works. Before that, the reasons behind the Military Command refusing to admit that it exercises power will be considered.

III.  How the Political System Works

The Algerian political system has operated under two modes of government: first, the one-party system that functioned following the country’s independence, with the constitutions of 1963 and 1976; second, the multiparty framework that began with the 1989 Constitution, revised in 1996, which is the system that is still in place today. Descriptions of the various (p. 377) institutions, an analysis of the conditions, and the scope of their transformations can be found elsewhere;8 the task here is to examine how the Military Command has exerted its grip on political power in these different political and judicial frameworks. As the one-party system was abolished in 1989, more attention will be paid to the current period.

A.  The Army’s Grip on the System of Government

Under the terms of the 1963 Constitution, the FLN, purged of its main opponents, was the only party, and was defined as a revolutionary vanguard. The party “realizes the will of the people,” whose “aspirations it translates”.9 Both theoretically and constitutionally, the single party instigated and controlled the direction of the state and the legislative power. Candidates in the presidential and legislative elections were nominated by the party, before being submitted to universal suffrage. If we are to judge by the rhetoric and the text of the constitution, Algeria was a one-party state, which is moreover how it has been described by constitutionalists who have attempted to analyze this regime.10 This system corresponds, at least from a theoretical point of view, to the Soviet model of the time. Thus as Juan J. Linz recalls, the official summing up of the Soviet philosophy says “only the party expressing the interest of the entire nation […] is qualified […] to control the work of all organizations and organs of power. The party realizes the leadership of all State and public organizations”.11 Before evaluating this system and examining how the army is placed within it, it is worth looking at the 1976 Constitution which, despite differences in drafting, adopts an entirely comparable system.

The 1976 Constitution was adopted on November 22, 1976, to succeed the 1963 Constitution after Colonel Būmadyan had held power for more than ten years following the 1965 coup.12 After this constitution was adopted, Colonel Būmadyan was elected President of the Republic after being nominated by the FLN. One chapter addresses the “public function”, which details the preeminent role of the party, and another chapter covers the People’s National Army (ANP). As far as the single party is concerned, it remains the one upon which “the institutional system rests” (Art. 94). “The leadership of the country is the embodiment of the unity of the political leadership of the Party and of the State” (Art. 98).

In such a system, how is the army able to play the role that the various interventions referred to above suggest it plays? In Algeria, the party had not overcome the divisions that had shaken the FLN after the crisis in 1962. Neither Ben Bellah, general secretary of the party and President of the Republic, nor Būmadyan, who would govern the state and the party from June 1965 until his death in December 1978, allowed the party to play the role described in the constitution. In the Algerian journal El Watan of June 4, 2012, the historian (p. 378) Mohamed Harbi wrote that Colonel Būmadyan was opposed to the creation of a military commission within the single party, signifying his refusal to allow the party to interfere in the affairs of the army.

Let us suppose that the party plays the leading and decisive role described by the constitutions of 1963 and 1976; the predominant role of the army could then only be realized by it controlling the party, either by choosing the members of governing bodies or by having military officers sit on such governing bodies. In practice, although the party never played a leading role, the Military Command used two methods to exert its grip on political and social life. A quarter of the members of the party’s Central Committee consisted of members of the military. This of course did not give the army a majority, but the purpose of their presence was not to sway the voting. For the FLN at least, there was never any question of contesting the decisive role of the Military Command, especially after the coup of June 1965. The strong army presence in the Central Committee of the single party suggests that the army was participating in political thinking and action. During the single-party era, the army’s presence in the Central Committee was a signal to the politicians and to the population that the army “that liberated the country” was standing guard and participating in the country’s “political and economic development”. In practical terms, the army’s presence in the Central Committee enables the other members to be informed of the Military Command’s views with regard to the policies on the agenda. The army representatives stand guard and provide others with an example to follow.13

From the 1965 coup until the 1976 Constitution, Algeria lived without a constitution, under the leadership of Colonel Būmadyan—as head of state, president of the Council of the Revolution, minister of defense, and army chief of staff. He was the true leader of the single party, although other leaders, such as Sharīf Belqāsim, Aḥmad Qāyid, Colonel Yaḥyāwī, or Sharīf Massāʿadīyah, were appointed to “administrate” the single party with his agreement or that of his successor.14 The party’s responsibility was defined officially as “the responsibility for the Party Machine”. In truth, the Military Command never wished to build the party from the base up, even in the context of the democratic centralism being tried or displayed in the USSR or in the other people’s democracies of the time. That is to say, in this system it is not the party that exerts a grip over the army, but precisely the reverse. The single party is a tool used by the Military Command to govern political and social life. Furthermore, the single trade union and the professional organizations, like women’s or farmers’ organizations, were tied to the single party and thus clearly and definitively placed under the grip of the Military Command.

During the single-party era, neither the 1963 Constitution nor the 1976 Constitution reflected this situation. The 1963 and 1976 constitutions are written along the same lines: The FLN Party is supposed to guide and direct the policies of the state, but little is said about the role of the army. Indeed, under Art. 8 of the 1963 Constitution and Art. 82 of the 1976 Constitution, “The National People’s Army, successor to the National Liberation Army and defender of the Revolution, shall have as its permanent duty the task of protecting independence and national sovereignty. It shall have responsibility for assuring the defense of the unity and integrity of the country, as well as the protection of its air space and its territory, its territorial waters, its continental shelf and its exclusive economic zone. The (p. 379) National People’s Army, the instrument of the Revolution, shall participate in the country’s development and the construction of socialism.”

Granted, the constitution does indicate that the army shall “participate” in the policies for the development and the construction of socialism—in other words, in everything that is deemed to matter. However, under the terms of the constitution, the army is nonetheless an instrument of the revolution, directed by the party. This depiction of the political system in the text of the constitution is what constitutionalists have described as “government by the Party”.15 However, in practice the relationship between the single party and the Military Command is precisely the reverse of what it is said to be according to the constitutions: The single party is an instrument used by the Military Command to control political life. The single trade union and the professional organizations are tasked with controlling economic and social life, under the watchful eye of the Military Command.

This conceptual organization would seem to define the Algerian political system as a totalitarian one, as it is sometimes accused of being by political forces opposed to the regime.16 It is not possible to go into the differences between a totalitarian state and an authoritarian state here. Neither the party, the organizations mentioned above, nor the influence of the army by means of military security have exerted sufficient control to enable complete control of society. Consequently, there can be no comparison with the Soviet or Nazi systems in terms of the power and role of the parties within society, or with the objectives and actions of security services and political police. The Algerian political system is an authoritarian system that displays none of the elements needed to define it as a totalitarian system, either in its ideology or in how it exerts social and political control.

In Algeria the political police—the key body of political and social control—has gone successively under the names of Military Security (MS) and later the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS). This huge body is part of the army. This means that the backbone of the political system, despite its importance and its decisive role in political affairs, is entirely dependent on the Military Command. The main objective of the political police is not to control society in order to constrain it to a particular way of thinking, but to ensure that nothing is done to organize or effect a regime change. It has never been directed by politicians, still less by ideologues. The objective of retaining power can even justify a change in ideology or orientation, as has happened several times in moving from socialism to economic liberalism, without the Military Command ever being ousted from the heart of the system.

Ever since independence, the MS and subsequently the DRS have always been headed by a senior officer from the Military Command. The body is officially entrusted with matters of espionage and counterespionage, but also has other duties vital for the survival and functioning of the political system. While it has neither admitted to nor taken responsibility for, such duties are nonetheless omnipresent. The body was built out of the remains of the former Ministry for Armament and General Liaisons, which had been headed by Colonel Būṣūf during the fight for national liberation. Upon independence Colonel Būmadyan appointed one of his close collaborators, Qaṣdī Marbāḥ, who would subsequently be made a colonel, to organize and develop the political police. It gradually became the eyes and the political driving force of the system. On Būmadyan’s death, Colonel Marbāḥ played a vital role in the transition and arbitrated in favor of Colonel al-Shādhlī Ben Jadīd, who with the support of Colonel Marbāḥ was eventually chosen by the Military Command to become (p. 380) President of the Republic. This article will show that Marbāḥ’s successors as heads of the DRS have never relinquished this vital prerogative which allows the Military Command to select the President of the Republic. However, once this selection has been made, the procedure for getting the army’s preferred candidate elected by the people is different under the single-party (1963–1988) and multiparty (after 1989) systems. During the single-party era, once the Military Command had chosen the “candidate” there was no difficulty in having this choice endorsed by the single party and the other trade unions and professional organizations. But to play its role as the driving force behind political strategies and the controller of political life, the MS and subsequently the DRS established a direct presence by recruiting agents in situ in most of the country’s decision-making centers. From then on it was not so much the case that the party, nor even the so-called organizations of the masses, such as the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) and other socio-professional organizations, were the system’s biggest weapon, but rather that the political police feigned that they were. It is without a doubt this presence that creates the impression that the DRS decides everything and that it makes decisions alone. The article will analyze how this system works and in particular how the political police have intervened since the adoption of multipartyism through the 1989 and 1996 constitutions.

B.  The Army’s Grip on the Multiparty Political System: The Cosmetic Democracy

It would seem difficult, at first glance, to establish a comparable level of control over political and social life when moving from the system of “government by the Party” that we have just considered, to a system based on multipartyism and political competition, such as was adopted through the constitutions of 1989 and 1996. It is certainly easier to pass messages and decisions along very narrow and selected channels in a single-party system than it is to try to keep power and govern in a “democratic” multiparty context. But this is the project that the Algerian Military Command—not without some difficulties and internal struggles within the army and then at the cost of serious misjudgments that led to a civil war—decided to put in place. The single-party system, especially after the public demonstrations of October 1988, appeared to be deadlocked and incapable of resolving the country’s problems or avoiding interfaction fighting.17 The move from a single-party system to multipartyism was carried out under difficult circumstances and with some improvisation, but with a sense of certainty that took the place of actual strategy among the military groups surrounding the presidency of the Republic. The move to multipartyism was to overcome the deadlocks of the single party, to respond to the criticisms of a large proportion of young people and to expand the base of the regime, while making it possible to get rid of elements of the civilian and military leadership who were opposed to change of any kind. Although this article cannot go into the details of the manipulations that surrounded the public demonstrations of October 1988 or the changes of government and constitutional changes that followed, we note that the security services (political police) underwent profound restructuring. The new head of government (prime minister) was Colonel Marbāḥ, former head of the MS. It was under his government that the first features of multipartyism were put in place. He was replaced by Mūlūd Ḥamrūsh, former Lieutenant-Colonel, who had become (p. 381) General Secretary of the Presidency and was close to the President of the Republic, al-Shādhlī Ben Jadīd. This means that the transition from government by the party to a multiparty democracy was made to seem like a new alternative thanks to multipartyism. But there was no real regime change as “the deciders”, as the holders of real power are known in Algeria, are appointed or recruited by the Military Command. In order to understand how this system works, it is necessary to examine the democratic system that was put in place by the 1989 Constitution and modified by the 1996 Constitution to see what it consists of and to ascertain the role that the Military Command plays in it.

Looking only at the constitutional provisions, the regime established under the 1989 Constitution and confirmed by the 1996 revision is indeed a democratic regime with a separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. The President of the Republic, invested with broad powers, is elected by universal suffrage; the government, appointed by the head of state, is accountable to the National Assembly, which is also elected by universal suffrage. Under the terms of the constitution the judiciary is independent and the press is free, as is the establishment of parties, trade unions, and associations. Human rights and democratic freedoms are recognized and guaranteed (Arts. 29 to 59). The only duties assigned to the army under the constitution are the “safeguarding of national independence and the defense of national sovereignty. It is responsible for assuring the defense of the unity and territorial integrity of the country, as well as the protection of its territory, air space and the various zones of its maritime domain” (Art. 25 of the 1996 Constitution).

If we keep to the text of the constitution, the army is strictly confined to the role that is given to armies in democratic countries. Under the terms of the constitution, the army is thus subject to the democratically determined political power. This situation is exactly what the Military Command has claimed in its rhetoric since independence.18 As we have seen throughout the history of the nationalist movement, since the Special Organization (SO) was established at the Congress of Ṣūmām organized by the FLN/ALN in 1947, political and constitutional rhetoric has claimed that the army is in the service of the political authorities and not the reverse. In adhering to this concept, the Algerian Constitutions remain loyal to the ideal of the acquisition of freedoms “by the people and for the people” that dominated the nationalist movement. Today this rhetoric serves to demonstrate that the army’s role is to always be at the service of the people by intervening to prevent the consolidation of personal political power (leaving aside President Ben Bellah, who the army helped to get elected in 1965, or the adventurism of the chief of staff in 1967 and yet again in January 1992) to “save Algeria and democracy” by, for example, canceling legislative elections such as those largely won by the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut—FIS).

These interventions were either actual coups in 1965 and 1992, or actions taken in complete secrecy, such as the bombings ordered by Colonel Būmadyan against the troops led by the army Chief of Staff Colonel Zbīrī in 1967, or the resignation of the President of the Republic, General Zaruwāl, who justified his departure more than a year before his mandate ran out by saying he was resigning “because he had realized all his objectives”.

In every case, the army’s actions were never accompanied by a military government. Whenever the army has intervened to impose its solution, it has taken care to stay behind the scenes and put “its civilians” in government. In 1962, the intervention by the Frontier Army was destined to impose the accession to the presidency of Aḥmad Ben Bellah, a civilian. In 1965, the coup, characterized as “revolutionary adjustment”, resulted in a civilian government and a mixed Council of the Revolution. In 1992, responsibility for the coup (p. 382) was no longer claimed by the military. The president himself declared that he had resigned but “naively” provided the argument that made his “resignation” a genuine coup, by saying that “decisions had been made of which he did not approve”. The decisions in question were those made by the Military Command to cancel the elections. Under the terms of the February 1989 Constitution, such decisions could only be taken by the Constitutional Council. General Major Nazzār, minister of defense and the main author and spokesman for the cancellation, declared that he had acted at the request of the civilian government to save democracy. In order to replace the head of state, the Military Command decided not to organize elections as provided for under the constitution, but instead to establish a High Committee of the State, the presidency of which it would be entrusted to a “historic leader” of the revolution, Muḥammad Būḍiyāf, who had been exiled since 1962.19 In 1999, the Military Command eventually recalled Būmadyan’s former minister for foreign affairs, ʿA. Būteflīqa, a Frontier Army veteran and “a civilian”—to be elected President of the Republic. This was done despite the withdrawal of all the other candidates a few days before the election date, including several former prime ministers and ministers. These candidates were informed by their former intermediaries in the system that the army, which had started to vote, had taken measures to vote in favor of Būteflīqa.

As can be seen, even after the adoption of democratic multipartyism through the 1986 and 1996 constitutions, the Military Command continued to choose the candidate to be elected President of the Republic. An outcome of this kind can only be explained if the Military Command has the means to neutralize the key elements of a democratic regime, i.e., free and fair elections on the one hand and the existence of autonomous and representative parties on the other. It is therefore worth examining how the Military Command has effected control of elections and how it has neutralized the political stage and especially the political parties, trade unions, and associations, while feigning the existence of democracy.

As explained above, immediately after independence Colonel Būmadyan established the MS, tasked in particular with the role of a political police force found under an authoritarian system. In principle, the transition to a multiparty democracy should have resulted in the dissolution of this political police. But officially, the Military Command did and does not admit that there is any such political police. Since one cannot dissolve something that does not exist, the new constitutional provision therefore operated under the control of the MS, which was renamed the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS). Instead of the relatively easy work to which it had been accustomed in the single-party context, the DRS now had to learn to work in a more complex landscape, with multiple and varied actors. One cannot simultaneously make a declaration guaranteeing human rights and democratic freedoms while grossly manipulating the ballot boxes; nor can one authorize multipartyism while preventing electoral competition. At the same time, if the holders of power do nothing, the democratic system will lead to a regime change, which would mean the end of the Military Command’s grip on power.

This is precisely what happened to the local elections (municipal and regional) of June 1990 and the legislative elections of December 1991, both overwhelmingly won by the Islamic Salvation Front. We have explained at length the reasons for the inaction of the DRS, which had just been restructured and was working in a context of political improvisation. Each leader of the DRS was waiting for a colleague to make a mistake in order to be able to blame that colleague for the failures of the system, while others were asking (p. 383) themselves where the “adventure with multipartyism” would lead “a country that is not ready for a democratic experiment”.20 Consequently, the local elections in 1990 and the legislative elections of 1991 were not manipulated by the DRS. This election was the first free one in Algeria. One could say, that through this free election, Algeria went through its own Arab Spring. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the presidential elections of 1995 and 1999, which saw the candidates named by the Military Command return large majorities in the first round of voting, although the candidates had been far removed from political action for almost twenty years.

Confirmation of the result of the legislative elections of 1991 would have meant that those who held power accepted the transfer of power to the Islamists in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. However, the objective of transforming the system had been to make the system more open in order to be better able to retain power, that is to say, to prevent regime change. The true nature of the system established by the 1989 Constitution and confirmed by the 1996 Constitution is thus revealed: It is a cosmetic democracy, a display to mask the real authority of the political system. It is a solution that the authoritarian power has thought up to ensure its own survival when the formula of government by the party was no longer capable of resolving social and political crises or even deadlocks in the system itself. That is why the Military Command decided to call off the elections before the second round of voting.

This cosmetic democracy cannot, however, function under the aegis of the army, if the army is content to merely choose and have elected the President of the Republic. To function, the cosmetic democracy also requires the DRS to take measures in relation to political parties, trade unions, and other associations, i.e., the various actors on the political and social stage, as well as the media. To render the democracy credible without risking the loss of the military’s grip on the system, the DRS must now on act on every stage, while still leaving enough room for a variety of other actors.

To prevent regime change, no autonomous party seeking to obtain power may be allowed to gain representation on the ground or the capacity to mobilize populations that would threaten to oust the holders of power. Since the Military Command established its grip on power, only the FIS has come close to achieving this before its electoral victory—the result of strong mobilization of the poorest populations and the middle classes—resulting in an intervention by the army and the dissolution of the party. It was precisely this experience that led the DRS to step up its initiatives in order to prevent the same thing happening again with any other party. The control of the army is not just intended to prevent Islamists from coming to power but also to exclude all political allegiances. Moreover, we can see that the Military Command has advocated various ideologies and political systems since independence. It experimented with Algerian socialism and self-management from 1962 to 1965, then with socialist enterprises and the agrarian revolution of the 1970s in the context of state capitalism before adopting economic liberalism from 1989 onward. Under the aegis (p. 384) of the Military Command, the constitutional system, too, has moved from the single party to multipartyism. This demonstrates that the Military Command acts and governs in the most pragmatic manner possible, according to what appears most opportune with regard to the domestic and international balance of power.

There are multiple examples that, despite the opaqueness of the system, illustrate the DRS’s attempts to destabilize a party or a group. The Islamist parties established by ʿAbdallāh Jāballāh have all experienced splits that resulted in the creation of new parties closer to the leaders. An activist influential in the Socialist Forces Front, an opposition party, was suddenly made a minister; others quit this party to join a party closer to the security policies decided on by the Military Command. Parties with no credence have obtained a substantial number of seats in the National Assembly or in the Senate, which indicates to the president of the National Assembly that he should put an end to the “policy of quotas”, thus confirming long-held public opinion that the results of the legislative elections are based on quotas concocted by “the deciders”, which means first and foremost the DRS.

The manipulation of political and social actors can take other forms to encourage the formation of groups calling for reform or for decisions previously called for by political or trade union opponents. The Human Rights Defense League (LADDH), created by human rights activists who had been in prison, was not authorized for several years; another Human Rights League, which was cooperating with the government, was authorized without hindrance and obtained premises and subscriptions. Āyt Aḥmad, a famous figure of the revolution and president of an opposition party (FFS), created together with members of civil society an “Autonomous Democratic Forum”. Very quickly, members of this Forum who were close to power created a “Democratic Forum”, which recommended an equivalent program under virtually the same name. Autonomous trade unions created by the trade unionists who denounced the exploitation by the authorities of the large historic union, the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), opened up social negotiations. To divide and create confusion, trade unions also calling themselves “autonomous” were created to compete with and to discredit the original ones. The problem is that these “creations”, dubbed “clones” by some trade unionists and intended to frustrate the demands and discredit the proposals of the opposition, gradually ended up casting doubt on the democratic project itself, creating the belief that democracy only leads to division and to empty rhetoric. As has been described, manipulation, of which the political police is grand master, has become a method of government.21

The war against Islamic terrorism and social uprisings has unfortunately given the military authorities an opportunity to expand the scope of their sphere of action and to increase their manipulation. The infiltration of armed Islamist groups by the security services, or of groups of opponents in Kabylie, has prompted some to ask the question: “Who is killing whom?” The slow process of fragmenting the fabric of society has a double effect: On the one hand, by creating fear and division, it makes the rise of a democratic movement that might constitute a credible force for regime change difficult. On the other, the incongruity between rhetoric and practice has created a gulf of separation between the people and those who govern, who are losing all credibility.22 In this system there is indeed a plurality (p. 385) of parties: trade unions and associations, although most of them are in one way or another dependent on the system that created them. It is as though, to exist, the parties, trade unions, and associations that are hostile to the authorities must stand up to or condemn not the true holders of power, who are elusive, but instead the bodies without popular representation that the system has helped to put in place. This system thus turns the political stage into a theater where one acts without impacting on reality.

Even now, more than twenty years after authorization was granted to the private media, most of Algeria’s media is controlled directly by the state, notably the radio stations and the only television channel. The government media, whether print, radio, or televised, continues to operate as it did during the single-party era, without freedom of tone and without controversial debate, except during some electoral campaigns. Commentators often talk, however, of the existence of freedom of the press. In fact, there is indeed a freedom of tone and a vivacity in the Algerian private print media that is not found in the press of other authoritarian systems in the region. It is this point that one must focus on and briefly contextualize to understand its impact and its limits.

Some of the private sector media in Algeria does sometimes open its columns to points of views and analysis that are critical of governmental policies. Journalists sometimes even hold very militant views, including views opposed to governmental policies. Moreover, academics sometimes have access to various discussion platforms to develop critical studies. However, if we observe the private media over a long period of time to examine the type of criticism that is voiced there, it can be seen that freedom of tone, when it exists, cannot be interpreted as freedom of the press. Examining the criticisms raised by some journalists about the policies of the President of the Republic, it can be seen that they are the same difficulties that the president has when he is faced with one of “the deciders” who nominated him.23 The power is not “one” and the private press feels it—i.e., some journalists have sometimes engaged as stakeholders or interested parties, depending on the case, in battles entrusted to them by groups with links to power. In most cases the freedom to criticize is quashed without explanation in matters that involve individuals close to the president or the Military Command, like when a journal has to remain silent because the political powers don’t need it to speak up any more. Even more clearly, it is easy to see that the freedom of tone is not exercised against those who are known in Algeria as “the deciders”, or the real holders of power. One can search in vain even in the supposedly independent private press to find a study that is critical of the role of the Military Command in the Algerian political system (this work cited above addressing exactly these issues has never been reflected in newspapers published in Algeria). This situation of the press recalls the famous quote from Beaumarchais’s Figaro, who said: “provided that I did not speak […] about religion, government, nor about people in positions […] nor about anyone who insists on anything […] I could print everything freely”. In fact, while being careful not to overstep boundaries that the journalists and editors of papers know as well if not better than others, the private press, thanks to its freedom of tone and its sometimes acerbic commentary, helps to lend a little credibility to a system that, at times when nothing seems to threaten its existence, can permit some criticism and sometimes even some debate. Moreover, the private press itself (p. 386) often complains of its treatment at the hands of the government and in particular of prosecutions of journalists. The press is ultimately, like other entities judged to be of strategic importance, an object of the surveillance by the Military Command. However, this does not mean there is “a censor” behind every journalist. In other spheres of political activity, there should not be yet another manipulation by the DRS behind every initiative. Neither the DRS, nor the Military Command for which it acts, can nor wants to control everything. The objective in the current day and age is to ensure that the Military Command retains supreme control, while protecting, particularly during periods of civic peace, the margins of democratic freedoms that allow it to present a credible democratic façade. This system therefore needs the press to help it create an impression of democratic life through its criticism and the discussion platforms and debates that it organizes. Thanks to the private press, some academics are allowed to express their views, and some trade unions, associations, and parties can make some points of view known. Thereby, the private press “lend(s) a little life to a democracy that has no substance”.24

IV.  Conclusion

One can now attempt to legally and politically describe the political system in Algeria, taking the role that the Military Command plays into account. As we have shown, during the single-party era, the system was evidently authoritarian, but it was not a case of government by the party, because the party was a tool of the Military Command. The current constitution is democratic in its provisions, but analysis of practice suggests a more complex picture. It remains to be seen, how far the constitutional reform announced by President ʿA. Būteflīqa in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring and relaunched in December 2014 will be democratic and which role the army will be play in it. A special attention to the political practice after the implementation of the emerging constitution should be still paid.25 As we have explained, the Military Command is always at the heart of the system, but not everything is controlled by the Military Command or by its DRS.

There is also a degree of democratic practice. There are not many parties, not many trade unions, and not many independent and representative associations, but there are also not bodies that are only controlled or manipulated by the DRS. Every authority has some room for maneuvers, particularly the President of the Republic. He is by necessity at the heart of the Military Command that has “crowned” him, while understanding that he is not its chief. He knows that there are boundaries and that it is not in his interest to cross them, as the history of his predecessors demonstrates. However, he can move these boundaries, transform the balance of power, and nurture alliances within the very heart of the system. This system seems to offer the advantage of being elusive by providing little for adversaries to get hold of, but it passes responsibility down to those with cameo roles, hiding the “holders of real power”. It is a system where the apparent leader is constantly dependent on a group that obeys rules that are known but unwritten. This is in practice a flexible but circuitous system, which makes decision-making more difficult than it seems.

Because the Military Command continues to play such a strong role, this system cannot be described as a democracy. It does, however, remain a cosmetic democracy when one defines a cosmetic democracy as a system that not only has a democratic constitution but that also permits a level of democratic practice. Some authors, such as Samir Amin, talk of (p. 387) “a limited democracy”, others such as Bertrand Badie analyze these regimes as “a limited multipartyism”.26 Others still prefer to talk of an authoritarian system, adding a qualification to authoritarianism to take account of the liberal aspects that it authorizes. Juan J. Linz proposes, for example, the terms “multipartisan” or “electoral authoritarianism”27. The Algerian historian Harbi prefers to talk in the case of Algeria today of “authoritarian decompression”. Alain Rouquié provides several examples of militarized systems in Latin America, where military leaders have gradually enlarged their grip on the political, economic, and social fabric of a country by means of the liberal vote or by state capitalism.28

In describing the current Algerian system as a cosmetic democracy, we hope to take account of not only the existence of a democratic constitution but also of a level of democratic practice. Since this practice transforms social and political life, it must be integrated into our concepts and analysis and not relegated to the description of “partisan” or “electoral”. However, this democracy remains cosmetic because it masks an authoritarian system overseen by the Military Command. This system was conceived and implemented to realize the objectives of those who hold power and thus to overcome the difficulties and the impasses of the single party or of authoritarianism accepted in its entirety. It is therefore neither a democratic transition defined as a gradual progress toward democracy nor a step toward democracy. It is a new category of authoritarian political system, although other similar forms have sometimes been tried out in Latin America with a different balance of powers.29 In Algeria, the cosmetic democracy was envisaged to allow the dominant powers to survive in the long term by meeting democratic demands. This is the contemporary response of authoritarian systems to take account of the new balance of power in the domestic and international social struggles characterized by a clear emergence of human rights and democratic freedoms.(p. 388)


The author and the editors sincerely thank Ms. Rebekka Yates for translating this article into English.

1  Although there had always been nationalist activists in favor of forming armed groups to fight against colonial occupation, it was not until February 1947 that the Congress of the Algerian People’s Party (APP), by far the most important party in the nationalist movement, agreed to create the Special Organization (SO). This was a military and paramilitary organization tasked with providing military training to nationalist activists and establishing a weapons stockpile. A member of the political Bureau of the APP, Muḥammad Balwizdād, was given responsibility for the organization, with another member of the political Bureau, al-Ḥusayn Āyt Aḥmad, as his deputy. Āyt Aḥmad subsequently took over as head of the organization after Balwizdād fell ill. Between 1947 and 1949 he put in place the architecture of the SO, established the first groups, and acquired some small stockpiles of weapons. Following the so-called Berber crisis, Āyt Aḥmad was dismissed and replaced by Ben Bella, who would later be arrested. The SO was disbanded by the French colonial authorities from the early 1950s. For further information (in French), see Mohammed Harbi, Le FLN, mirage et réalité (Editions Jeune Afrique/STD, Paris 1985) 40. See also Mabrouk Belhocine, Le courrier Alger-Le Caire 1954–1956 (Editions Casbah, Algiers 2000) 27 et seqq. See also Hocine Aït Ahmed, Mémoires d’un combattant (Edition Bouchène, Algiers 1990). Mahfoud Bennoune, The Making of Contemporary Algeria 1830–1987 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1988) 80. See also Phillip C Naylor, Historical Dictionary of Algeria (Scarecrow Press Inc., Lanham 2006) 373.

2  Mohammed Harbi and Benjamin Stora, La guerre d’Algerie (Robert Laffont, Paris 2004) 422.

3  Mohamed Harbi and Benjamin Stora (n 2) et seqq.

4  On the composition of the Ṣūmām Congress and the Coordination and Implementation Committee (CCE) that it appointed as well as the members of the various provisional governments of the Algerian Republic (GPRA) and of the National Council of the Algerian Revolution (CNRA), see Saad Dahlab, Mission accomplie (Editions Dahlab, Algiers 1981) 229.

5  See Mohamed Harbi, FLN, mirage et réalité (Editions JA, Algeria 1980), and Gilbert Meynier, Histoire intérieure du FLN (Fayard, Paris 2002).

6  See Mohammed Harbi and Gilbert Meynier (n 5), Saad Dahlab (n 4), and Ali Haroun, La septième wilaya. La guerre du FLN en France, 1954–1962 (éditions Le Seuil, Paris 1986).

7  See Mohamed Harbi and Gilbert Meynier (n 5), Saad Dahlab (n 4), and Ali Haroun (n 6). See also Benyoucef Benkhedda, L’Algérie à l’indépendance: La crise de 1962, (éditions Dahlab, Algiers 1997), and Ferhat Abbas, Autopsie d’une guerre (Livres éditions, Algiers 2011). Benkhedda was the second president of GPRA, Abbas was the first.

8  Madjid Benchikh, Algérie: Un système politique militarisé (L’Harmattan, Paris 2003); Madjid Benchikh, “La démocratie de façade au Maghreb: transition démocratique ou catégorie de systèmes autoritaires” in Jean-Louis Autin and Laurence Weil (eds), Etudes offertes au professeur Michel Miaille (Montpellier University, Montpellier 2008); Madjid Benchikh, “Constitutions démocratiques et réalités autoritaires au Maghreb: la démocratie de façade” in Yadh Benachour, Jean-Robert Henry, and Rostane Mehdi (eds), Etudes en l’honneur de Ahmed Mahiou: Le débat juridique au Maghreb (Publisud, Paris 2009).

9  See the preamble and the provisions of the Constitution of September 10, 1963, Journal Officiel de la République Algérienne (Algier September 10, 1963).

10  Maurice Flory and Jean Louis Miège, La Constitution algérienne. Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord (Volume 2, Editions du CNRS, Paris 1964) 9–21.

11  Juan José Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes (L. Lynne Rienner, Boulder 2000) 81.

12  See Journal Officiel de la République Algérienne (Algier November 24, 1976).

13  Those who lived through the time of the single party were able to see how votes were made unanimous on Algerian television, often in a sort of orchestrated movement of hands that rose one after the other, starting from the seats occupied by the military.

14  All the successive leaders of the FLN Party were under the command of Colonel Būmadyan in the army staff known as the Frontier Army during the war of liberation or shortly after it.

15  See Maurice Flory and Jean Louis Miège (n 10).

16  See Juan J. Linz (n 11) 79 et seqq; see also Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York 1973).

17  Madjid Benchikh (n 8) 5, Algérie: un système politique militarisé; Keith Sutton, Ahmed Aghrout, and Salah Zaimeche, “Political Changes in Algeria: An Emerging Electoral Geography” (1992) 17 The Maghreb Review 3; Yahia H. Zoubir, “Stalled Democratization of an Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Algeria” (1995) 2 Democratization 109.

18  To be convinced of this, one need only look at the Journal of the Ministry for Defense.

19  Madjid Benchikh (n 8) Algérie: un système politique militarisé , see also our interview on these issues and the references in the Algerian journal El Watan, January 2012. See also Ahmed Aghrout and Redha M. Bougherira (eds), Algeria in Transition: Reforms and Development Prospects (Routledge, London 2004) 184.

20  Madjid Benchikh (n 8), Algérie: un système politique militarisé. On a point of interest relating to this period, ten years afterward, the former head of state Chadli Bendjedid, explained that the victory of FIS was not predicted by the surveys of the Security Service, which had projected that it would not get more than a third of the votes. See on this period, Khaled Nezzar, Algerie: Echec d’une régression programmée (Publisud, Paris 2001); see also Kisaichi Masatoshi and Watanabe Shoko, “Interview with Chadli Bendjedid, former president of Algeria (December 4, 2008)” in (2009) 27 The Journal Sophia Asian Studies, which was reprinted by the Algerian papers Liberté (in French) and El Khabar (in Arabic). See also Ahmed Semaine, “Interview with General Major Larbi Belkheir in Ahmed Semiane,” Octobre, ils parlent (Editions Le matin, Algiers 1998), also available at http://www.algeria-watch.org/farticle/88/88belkheir.htm, accessed September 3, 2015.

21  Madjid Benchikh (n 8) 188, Algérie: un systèmepolitique militarisé.

22  There are some interesting accounts of this: see in particular the work of the Permanent Tribunal of the Peoples (TPP) during its November 2005 session in Paris on the site http://www.algerie-tpp.org/, accessed September 3, 2015, as well as on http://www.algeria-watch.org, (suivre ‘’liens Algérie’’), accessed September 3, 2015. See also Habib Souaïdia, La sale guerre (La Découverte, Paris 2001); Yous Nesrallah, Qui a tué à Bentalha? Algérie: chronique d’un massacre annoncé (La Découverte, Paris 2000), and Luiz Martinez, La guerre civile en Algérie (Karthala, Paris 1998). See also the many special reports by Amnesty International that refer to the annual reports of this organization, especially over the years 1993–1999. See also Reporters Sans Frontières, Algérie, le livre noir (La Découverte, Paris 1997). See the references in the various reports on these issues cited in this volume.

23  See the examples given and El Hadi Chalabi, La presse algérienne au-dessus de tout soupçon (Edition Inayas, Algiers/Paris 1999).

24  Madjid Benchikh (n 8) 214, Algérie: un système politique militarisé.

25  Magharebia, “Algeria: Constitutional Reform Re-Launched After Three Years,” http://www.constitutionnet.org/news/algeria-constitutional-reform-re-launched-after-three-years, accessed September 3, 2015.

26  Samir Amin, Etat et politique dans le Tiers-Monde (L’Harmattan, Paris 1994) 162–164, and Betrand Badie, Les deux Etats (Fayard, Paris 1997) 253.

27  Juan Jose Linz (n 11) 338.

28  Alain Rouquié, L’Etat militaire en Amérique latine (Seuil, Paris 1982) 362–369.

29  Id. 357.