Algeria on the Brink?

Five Years After the Arab Spring

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika attends the opening session of the first Gas Exporting Countries Forum summit in Doha, November, 2011. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters

Amid the political turmoil that has shaped the Middle East and North Africa since 2011, the Algerian regime has proved resilient. Over the past five decades, the country has undergone periods of instability and crisis. After a brutal war that brought Algeria its liberation in 1962, French rule was replaced by a single-party state, military authoritarianism, and an oligarchy that still dominates the country 54 years later. As the Algerian lawyer and human rights activist Ali Yahia Abdennour once said, “We liberated the land, but not the people.” Even now, Algeria remains ruled by an opaque combination of military and security personnel and political elites. Yet Algeria’s regime remains standing, even as signs of decay pervade the country’s hollowed-out political system.

In February, I arrived in Algiers a day after parliament approved a new constitution. An atmosphere of discontent lingered in the streets. There was talk of crisis—oil prices had

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