Protests continue in Algeria — after six months of sustained pressure for government reform. The military openly rules the country — since the departure of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in late March — and citizens are demanding a civilian state. But Algeria’s military will probably continue its direct and open involvement in politics. Here’s why.
Historical precedence for military rule
This is not a new role for Algeria’s military. The army fought French colonialism and liberated the country in the 1960s, participated in its socio-economic development in the 1970s, answered to the nationwide protests in the 1980s and protected its territorial integrity in the 1990s. Throughout these periods, depending on the situation, the army oscillated between direct interventionism and limited withdrawal.
For instance, in 1978 at the death of the president, the military mediated among different civilian groups fighting for succession. The military installed a candidate chosen by consensus — and eventually returned to its barracks. But military interventionism reached its peak in 1988, 1992 — and throughout the “Black Decade,” when a bloody armed conflict between the authorities and several Islamist militant groups shook the country from 1991 until 2001.
But when Bouteflika came to power in 1999, the military pulled back from politics after securing ample budget and immunity for the human rights violations that took place during the decade-long civil war.
Since the beginning of the popular movement earlier this year — and the absence of influential institutional authorities — the army has been openly ruling the country. The head of the army shifted his loyalty, called Algeria’s constitutional council to declare the president’s position vacant under article 102 of the constitution and eventually pressured Bouteflika to step down.
The army also appointed an interim president with a caretaker government and conducted dozens of arrests of politicians and business tycoons on corruption charges.