Spring-Loaded Algeria

In last week's general election, Algeria’s ruling FLN maintained its grip on power. While international monitors praised the elections as a step toward reform, many, if not most, Algerians remain unconvinced that their political leaders can deliver economic prosperity and fairness.

ALGIERS – More than a year has passed since the Arab Spring dawned in the Maghreb, yet the promised political renaissance in the region has not materialized. Although Tunisia, the movement’s birthplace, held multi-party elections in November 2011, disillusionment runs high. And, while presidential elections are expected to be held in Egypt this month, Tahrir Square remains a theater of bloody protests against the military council that has ruled since former President Hosni Mubarak’s fall.

For Libya, where general elections will be held next month, the situation has become alarming. The National Transitional Council, Libya’s interim government, has lost control of the country. Tribal and militia leaders in oil-rich eastern Libya declared autonomy in March, and violent clashes between armed groups persist.

Meanwhile, Algeria, often touted as the next country that would get swept up by the Arab Spring, seems to have taken a different tack, favoring a slightly modified status quo over full-blown revolution. Indeed, although protests began on December 29, 2010, and went so far as a wave of self-immolations in January 2011, the spark of revolution faded after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was wise enough not to stifle unrest with force, made concessions – including, most importantly, an end to the 19-year state of emergency.

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