Algeria: Current Issues [February 10, 2011]   [open pdf - 385KB]

"The United States has increasingly viewed the government of Algeria, as an important partner in the fight against Al Qaeda linked groups in North Africa. The Algerian economy is largely based on hydrocarbons, and the country is a significant source of natural gas for the United States and Europe. Algeria receives little development assistance from the United States, but its security forces benefit from U.S. security assistance and participation in bilateral and regional military cooperation programs. Algeria's relative stability, always tenuous, has most recently been challenged by a series of riots and popular demonstrations that have occurred since early January 2011. The unrest initially appeared to be motivated by discontent over food prices, but has turned more overtly political since mid-January. The example of neighboring Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" and the ripple effects of ongoing unrest in Egypt may contribute to opposition activism, with further protests anticipated in mid-February. The government has reacted both by attempting to assuage the public through political and economic concessions and by using the security forces to prevent and break up demonstrations. Across the region, other authoritarian governments have adopted a similar approach with varying results. Algeria's political system is dominated by a strong presidency. The military is the heir to Algeria's long struggle for independence from France, and has remained the most significant political force since independence in 1962. Following Algeria's bloody civil war in the 1990s, the military backed Abdelaziz Bouteflika for the presidency in 1999. He was reelected for a third term in April 2009 and has no clear successor. The voice of the military has been muted publicly since Bouteflika was first selected, but may be heard during a future presidential succession. Low voter turnout in the May 2007 parliamentary election may have reflected general lack of public faith in the political system in general and the weak legislature in particular. Authorities specifically boasted of a higher turnout in the 2009 presidential election."

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CRS Report for Congress, RS21532
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