Algeria political risk assessment

23 February 2011

Algeria vulnerable to political upheaval

1 September 2011

Algiers on 29 August informed the UN that it had received the wife and three children of fugitive Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

An Algerian foreign ministry statement said Qaddafi’s second wife Safia, who is mother to all but one of Qaddafi’s children, his daughter Ayisha, and sons Muhammad and Hannibal crossed the border early on 29 August.

An aide to NTC chief Mostafa Abdel Jalil said the NTC would demand the Algerian government hand over Qaddafi’s family so that they could be tried in Libyan courts and that refusal to do so would be seen by the Libyan people as ‘an act of aggression’.

But Algeria’s ambassador to the UN said that Algeria had received them on humanitarian grounds and would not hand them over to the NTC.

10 March 2011

Sporadic demonstrations have taken place since early January, initially in response to rising food prices. Recent marches have been organised by a coalition of political parties and other groups under the name, the National Coordination for Change and Democracy. They are calling for an end to Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s presidency and say they will continue to hold weekly protests until their demands are met. Security forces have managed to control the protests and they have not been a major threat to the government yet.

Government actions:

  • Removal of the state of emergency introduced in 1992
  • Lower customs duties, including a 41 per cent reduction in taxes on sugar and other foodstuffs until August

Political Risk assessment

Vulnerable to ongoing protests, particularly as the government has now made concessions, but Algerians will be reluctant to see violent protests due to country’s bloody history.

23 February 2011

There is a high risk of political upheaval as the authoritarian regime struggles to respond to demands for reform. With Islamists having already proven themselves capable of election success back in 1992, they would be well placed to fill any power vacuum left by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Bouteflika built his political appeal on his relative success in defusing large-scale Islamist militant violence using amnesties backed up by force. But he seems unable to find the answer that will placate the disenchanted unemployed youth of Algeria’s poor urban districts. His fundamentally authoritarian and secretive regime seems unwilling to risk the political and media liberalisation sought by the new reform campaign, inspired by events in Tunisia.

Said Sadi of the reformist Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Democratie struck a popular chord in January in calling a demonstration in favour of political reform, which sparked a massive security force response.

The question is whether the authorities will be able to resist pressure for fundamental change to the regime by taking more limited measures, such as the promised lifting of the state of emergency and extra programmes of housing construction and youth job creation.

The challenge is complicated by the cumbersome nature of the state machinery. It is questionable whether announcements of new measures will be rapidly translated into economic action on the ground that improves the position of ordinary people. The state’s instinctive reaction is always to reassert control, which hinders its capacity to foster a more business-friendly liberal economic climate or respond to demands for political change.

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