The Algerian government is in disarray following the October 2 resignation of seven ministers from the National Liberation Front (FLN), Algeria's former ruling party (1962 to 1989) and the dominant party in the People's Assembly. The resignation reflects a power struggle within Algeria's political elite that pits President Abdelaziz Bouteflika against former prime minister Ali Benflis in the run-up to the April 2004 presidential elections. Last May, Bouteflika fired Benflis, FLN secretary-general, after Benflis blocked the party from nominating Bouteflika for a second term.

Bouteflika and Benflis have been competing to secure the FLN's support for the forthcoming elections. Bouteflika's loyalists in the party, a new splinter wing called the "Correctionists," managed to obtain a court order banning an October 4 FLN conference at which Benflis was slated to receive the party's nomination. Seven FLN ministers close to Benflis then withdrew from the government in protest; Bouteflika replaced them with ministers from the Correctionist wing.

Despite the court order, FLN members managed to convene on October 3 and formally nominated Benflis as the party's candidate. The Correctionists plan to contest the nomination's validity in the Constitutional Council, which is headed by a Bouteflika appointee. Whatever the court decides, most analysts believe that Bouteflika cannot be re-elected without the support of the FLN's party machine. Algeria's powerful military so far has not intervened overtly in the FLN tumult, a strong sign that it will not back Bouteflika's quest for a second term.