This is not a particularly happy time in Algerian politics. In the past two decades, the Algerian public has faced two realities: a civil war that threatened to shatter the state from its core and then relative calm under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The president, now in his late 70s, has ruled the nation since 1999. Following the Arab Spring in 2010, Bouteflika promised reforms to the Algerian political system that have yet to fully materialize. Global oil prices have plummeted, and Algeria has had to balance its budget by introducing austerity measures. And now, the burden of unpopular economic policies and Bouteflika’s lingering health problems has led many to fear the return of political uncertainty.
The next few years may test Algeria’s political health, but there are signs that the nation can weather a period of uncertainty. Most telling is that, where decades ago, Algerians demanded democracy, they now hope for continuity. In pursuit of this, the Algerian polity may tolerate pseudo–democratic theatrics—as with Bouteflika’s unprecedented re-election to his fourth term—as it spells certainty and stability.
THE END OF RENTIER POLITICS
Algeria’s current situation thus threatens to erode two central pillars of its normalcy: Bouteflika and oil profits that have subsidized life for ordinary Algerians. The government’s recent moves within the economy, presidency, and army can be understood as an attempt to preserve these tenets of the Algerian social contract despite the significant challenges it faces in doing so.
First, knowing that Algerian subsidy programs are unsustainable due to falling oil prices, the government is raising taxes and prices on fuel, electricity, automobiles, medicine, telecommunications, and transport gradually, hoping to soften the economic blow to average Algerians. Moreover, core subsidies like housing, education, and defense funding will remain untouched.
Second, the government is approaching Bouteflika’s succession with an eye to continuity, and hopes to mitigate the risk of conflict around the appointment Algeria’s next leader. Few have faith that Bouteflika’s health will
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