Algeria's Islamist Revolution: The People Versus Democracy?

Middle East Policy

Volume V January 1998 Number 4

Algeria's Islamist Revolution: The People Versus Democracy?
Hamou Amirouche

Dr. Amirouche is a former fellow of the Institut National d’Etudes de Strat蜢ie Globale (Algiers).

For a former "mujaheed" like me, nothing is more disheartening than to witness Algeria engulfed again, three decades after gaining independence from France, in a savage war prompted by the same causes, tracing the same contours and unfolding with the same unspeakable brutality. Former Algerian officers of the French army,1 who initially fought the Algerian "rebels" on the French side before rallying them, find themselves once more engaged in mortal combat, with French backing, against the same "wretched of the earth." Detention camps, used by the French to incarcerate nationalist militants, were reopened in 1992 in the Sahara desert and filled with thousands of Islamist militants. Self-defense militias organized to "protect" villagers from terrorist incursions resuscitate the notorious harkis set up by the French under the motto: "To hunt the wolf of Baluchistan, use the dog of Baluchistan." And for the first time, on August 29, 1997, the number of men, women and children reported to have been slaughtered in Rais by armed bands in one day reached the record figure of 300 "Messalist traitors," including children, massacred in one night in Meluza in 1957 by the National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the National Liberation Front (FLN).

From butchering entire families of "traitors," to razing guerrilla hideouts with napalm, to engaging in terrorist bombings in France, the tragedy is strangely reminiscent of Pierre Joseph Proudhon’s "r裯olution permanente." Irrespective of its ideological articulation, the crisis is shaped by the familiar patterns of violence and counterviolence, retaliation and retribution, generated by the pursuit of thwarted political goals by deadly means characteristic of the unconventional nature of the struggle. Indeed, the conflict cannot be expected to obey sophisticated Geneva Convention "laws of war." George J. Andreopoulos’s penetrating observations pertaining to the Algerian-French war are transposable to the new Algerian war: "One of [its] most disturbing features is the indiscriminate use of violence as a means both of instilling fear in the enemy and of rallying supporters to the cause."2The targeting of innocents (children or spouses of security officers, for instance) inevitably provokes repressive measures of the same indiscriminate nature, in a spiral of violence leading to a new "form of total war, a war waged not against the guerrillas but against the people as a whole."3 The ultimate result is that both sides have succeeded in alienating the very people on whose behalf the struggle is relentlessly waged.

Ideological rhetoric notwithstanding, the root causes of both conflicts lie in conditions of political and social exclusion, and until it mutates into appalling, senseless, indiscriminate warfare, the accompanying violence appears to be a continuation of politics by deadly means.

The crisis exhibits features common to most revolutions. During the 1789 French Revolution, citizens who did not wear the revolutionary hat became as endangered a species as today’s Algerian women defying injunctions to hide behind a veil. In 1791 — the year the U.S. Congress passed the First Amendment — the Jacobins, denounced the clergy and the plot of "100,000 confessionals" to undermine the revolution. They shut down churches, provoking a devastating civil war in the Vendee in which 600,000 died, 210,000 by execution.4 Today the Jacobins are curiously echoed by Algerian officials who occasionally close down lieux de culte (unofficial prayer places), accuse the "fundamentalists" of hijacking religion for political gain, and produce a new constitution banning religious political parties, thus rescucitating the erroneous belief that secularism can be decreed by law.5

In their time, the nationalist insurgents were branded by the French as "obscurantists," "terrorists" and "outlaws," the exact terms used today by Algerian generals to portray the Islamist militants. While they both have referred to themselves as "mujahedeen," present-day Islamist insurgents, like their nationalist predecessors, seek to achieve essentially secular goals irrespective of the utterances of orators or their avowed objectives. In its radical expression, the Islamist movement bears an uncanny resemblance to other social and political revolts. It is perceived as messianic and totalitarian not because it is Islamic but because it is revolutionary. It is this revolutionary dimension that spurred NATO’s fears in 1995 of a regional spillover threatening its southern flank6 and inspired New York Times headlines such as "No More Red Menace, But Here’s Islam."7 But the recurring upheavals in which Islam is the common expression of a political and social challenge do not point to a single worldwide Islamic resurgence — or to a new "International" — calling for a new strategy of containment.

In an Islamic state such as Saudi Arabia, Islamist fundamentalism should be as unimaginable as atheism in the Vatican. Yet "fundamentalists" like Mohamed Masari contest the kingdom’s primary medium for legitimacy and charge the royal family with being un-Islamic, not because it is not ruling by strict Islamic law but because of alleged corruption, which is un-Islamic, un-Christian and un-Judaic and as such condemned by secularists and clerics alike.

Thus, except for its ethical underpinnings, the profile of the "Islamic state" to be erected on the ruins of the "secular" state remains nebulous and devoid of a comprehensive social agenda. This sheds light on the reasons why the radical Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) is the only party that has never held a convention or published its platform.

It was only twelve days after the first-round FIS electoral victory in January 1992 that fliers displayed in the documentation center of the Algiers prefecture yielded some insight into the promised Islamic state. "Wealth redistribution, taking from the rich to provide for the needs of the people"8 stands out in the program. But the economic program remained opaque. This was abundantly commented upon by the Financial Times, when it pointed out that "the FIS has never published a detailed economic program" and that "a total uncertainty reigns regarding its stand on the future of the economic reforms laundhed by the government".... "Mr. Hachani [the provisional FIS leader] denounced the hydrocarbons law" passed by the National Popular Assembly and denationalizing the oil and gas sector, totally state-controlled since February1971. Most significantly, the Financial Times underscored the fact that the "Djaz’ara [nationalist] tendency of the FIS develops an approach similar to the populist ideology of the FLN."9 The firm belief, common to most revolutions, that the destructive act of bringing down the incarnation of evil will engender the new millenium precludes any serious debate on how to govern a society and address its problems.

Besides, the aggregation of social actors have little in common and were only united by a commitment to overthrow the ruling caste. A review of the three social categories acting under the FIS banner reveals more unbridgeable divisions. The first layer includes small-business owners as well as wealthy merchants, civil servants as well as dissidents of the FLN. The president of the FIS, Abassi Madani, belongs to this category. The group shares some common ideological ground with the Saudis and advocates a return to primordial Islam and the the free-trade practices already instituted at the time of the Prophet.

The second stratum comprises university professors, physicians and lawyers, either blocked in their social ascent by a system of nepotism or revolted by the degradation of morals blamed on cultural invasion. These "counter-elites," as Gilles Kepel labels them,10 do not confuse temporal and spiritual matters. For them, the desire to establish an Islamic state expresses a nationalist quest for identity and responds to moral, cultural and political exigencies. Their reasonable ambition is to become a full part of the establishment, not necessarily to overthrow it. They share a far larger ideological and social base with the moderate Islamists, the Movement for a Peaceful Society (ex-Hamas) and Ennahdha, who contend that democracy is not incompatible with Islam, than with the thrid category of the FIS, the "hittists" (leaners against walls).

The hittists constitute the epitome of the despondent urbanized young. Victims of the sky-high rate of unemployment (30 percent), socially marginalized, easily mobilized and prey to "fatwas," these multitudes constitute the source of the formidable political strength displayed by the FIS in 1990-91. Before the mass arrests of June 1991 and January-February 1992, they looked for moral and spiritual guidance to the highly educated. But the incarceration of the FIS elites, as well as the creation of a 15,000-man antiterrorist force and the ensuing repression, had two devastating effects. They buried hopes for a political compromise with the military and upset the hierarchy in favor of the "emirs" of the armed groups, who now called the shots.

An example reveals that the hittists, once armed, share little in common with the second category above. In the fall of 1994, sheikhs Ali Jedi and Mohamed Boukhamkham, two FIS cadres released from jail, were entrusted by Abassi Madani and Ali Benhaj with the sensitive mission of evaluating the strength and morale of the armed groups and finding ways to unify the ranks of the GIAs and the AIS. They came up with a report expressing utter shock at the lack of Islamic morals prevailing in the ranks of the mujahedin. The report cited both an abundance of profanity and widespread abuses committed against the civilian population.11

Thus, a discussion of this conflict must guard against the extremes of overrating the influence of Islam — except as an ethical and egalitarian system — and underestimating social and economic factors. It should not rely for comprehensive answers on Bernard Lewis or Samuel Huntington, who lay down as an explanation for "Muslim rage" the very thing to be assessed (Islamist ideology and rhetoric) and who reduce familiar struggles for power and recognition to a "clash of civilizations."12

Islamist ideology had previously manifested itself in Algeria under President Houari Boumediene (1965-1978) and in Egypt under President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952-1970) without destabilizing the regimes.13 But it lacked passion. The basis of fundamentalism in Islam is quite simple: the only function of the temporal ruler is to apply the law of God as spelled out by the Quran and the sharia and not to graft on to the unwilling social fabric alien doctrines like socialism or parliamentarianism. But to proclaim it is not enough. The strengh and popularity of Islamism or any revolutionary movement appears to be in inverse proportion to the perceived legitimacy of a political regime.

The charisma of Nasser, his personal integrity, his survival of a triple invasion after the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956, as well as a highly efficient "Mukhabarat" and an egalitarian populism provided him with the backing to ruthlessly repress the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s. Without incurring the wrath of the people at large, he could, in 1966, singlehandedly order the hanging for conspiracy of Sayid Qutb, the Marx of contemporary Islamism. And in 1976, it took only a speech to silence Algerian Islamists, equally infused with Qutb’s teachings, when they defied Boumediene’s rule in a strident claim that his proposed National Charter was kufr (heresy).

The gradual disintegration of national solidarity, hardly noticeable under Boumediene, unleashed under his successor, Chadli Benjedid, a complex process (analysed below) by which a fringe movement evolved first into a mass revolt against egregious abuses and then into a destructive revolution. The basic postulate is that Islamism as a political creed, in the absence of political and social exclusion, has as much of a chance to become revolutionary and politically threatening anywhere in the Islamic world as right-wing Christian conservatism does to become a mass movement in the United States. In Algeria’s case, shortsighted politics and the intersection of socioeconomic transformations14 with ideology produced a popular insurgency.



The revolt in Algeria has taken a religious turn that requires a brief explanation. Colonization (1830-1847) was carried out under the dubious but unequivocal motto, "by the cross and by the sword." It played the role of "original sin," in the words of Jacques Berque, amongst the Algerian people, who were convinced that they had strayed and deserved God’s punishment: colonialism. As the national cause received a grave setback — the Emir Abdelkader was defeated and Algeria finally conquered after 17 years of war — it was to the citadel of religion that the people, struggling to preserve their identity, naturally retreated. The French colonialists referred systematically to the natives as Muslims or Muslim French, never as Algerians. They turned mosques into churches and sometimes even into bars. When independence was restored, churches were turned into mosques, convents were closed, and Article 2 of all three successive constitutions including the last one, ironically banning religious parties, proclaimed, "Islam is the religion of the state." Hence, the paradigm offered to the native was not that of freedom of religion or respect for individual liberty, even though these were supposed to be inalienable human rights. When French colonialism was brought to an end, its mission civilisatrice left behind an illiteracy rate exceeding 90 percent.

As a consequence, the nationalist movement was identified with the peasantry, unlike Morocco’s or Tunisia’s, which were borne by middle-class elites. The small group of French-educated intellectuals, organized into a political party, the Union du Manifeste Algerien (UDMA), struggled for civil rights and integration, not a nationalist cause. To prove the point, their leader, Ferhat Abbas, published in 1936 a widely quoted article in which he said: "I have questioned the living and the dead. No one spoke to me of such a thing as the Algerian Nation."15 This article prompted a swift response from Sheikh Ibn Badis, the leader of the religious party, the Association of Islamic Scholars (AIS), proclaiming: "Islam is our religion, Arabic is our language, Algeria is our fatherland." But the Islamists who cite this declaration to claim the paternity of the nationalist movement deliberately forget that Ibn Badis’s program was purely cultural and educational and never encompassed in its agenda independence from France. In an unusal letter, Sheikh Mohamed Abdu, one of the founding fathers of Islamic reformism, urged the mufti of Algiers in 1905 to shun nationalism.16 In fact, in 1936, a delegation made up of members of these two parties, representing the traditional and the francophone elites, met with French Prime Minister Leon Blum and demanded the integration of Algeria into France.17

By contrast, the father of the Algerian nationalist movement, the North African Star (NAS) — created in Paris under the umbrella of the French Communist party as the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Rif war was raging — was a factory worker, Messali Hadj, a close friend of Ho Chi Minh. His Algerian People’s party, succeeding the NAS, recruited its followers among the peasants and workers, underscoring the limitations of nationalism as a class struggle. This explains why the movements that called for the restoration of Islam as a system of government were considered by nationalists and socialists as reactionary, particularly in matters related to land reform, secularism and the rights of women.18 While the elites conducted an open dialogue with the French, begging them to abide by their own logic proclaiming Algeria an integral part of France and making them full French citizens, the nationalist plebs continued to peacefully voice their demand for independence. However, the colonial class could not become a majority without renouncing its privileges, and it could not renounce its privileges without ceasing to be a landed aristocracy. The weakness of the French governments of the period compounded with the intransigence of the colons’ powerful lobby defeated all initiatives seeking to secure civil rights and universal suffrage in the "French Province." This strengthened the ranks of the nationalists, widened their social base, and ended up producing colonialism’s gravediggers.

The 1945 massacres19 signaled the end of politicking and the organization of the first armed group, the Secret Organization (the OS), members of which formed the nucleus that unleashed the war for independence in 1954 under the banner of the FLN. The ex-assimilationist leaders, Ferhat Abbas and Sheikh Bashir El Ibrahimi, were welcomed into the ranks of the FLN only two years after it was initiated, on the condition that they join the revolution as individuals and not as members of political parties representing specific ideological currents. Handicapped by the stigma of demanding assimilation as well as of belonging to the bourgeois class, the Islamists had little chance of influencing the course of history until President Chadli acceded to power. External factors like the generous aid lavished on anticommunist Islamist movements during the Cold War, particularly in the wake of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, also played a crucial role. Algeria was the Arab world’s Eastern Europe, the only Muslim country that never denounced the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The 1990 campaign for local elections overwhelmingly won by the FIS was financed by the Saudis,20 most likely with U.S. approval. And it is common knowledge that the first armed Islamist groups were organized by veterans of the war in Afghanistan, trained in Pakistan under CIA sponsorship. That the violence reached a rare degree of barbarity illustrates both a pattern characteristic of guerrilla warfare encouraged by the presence of mountains and forests, as well as a longstanding culture of violence steeped in the war for independence. This should not, however, obscure the fact that terrorists are made, not born, and are victims as well as executioners. A serious attempt must be made to grasp the real forces at work in Algeria and the stakes for the Western world, ranging from the disruption of oil and gas supplies to Europe to upheavals engendered by the North African Berbers’ assertion of cultural and perhaps national identity.



Historians21 ascribe the origins of the Algerian crisis to 30 years of a single-party system and profound mismanagement, curiously blurring major distinctions among three successive regimes. Yet from 1962 to 1965, the stifling Cuban brand of "scientific socialism"22 instituted by the first president, Ahmed Ben Bella, which targeted even Turkish baths and movie theaters for nationalization, had little in common with President Chadli’s nepotistic and voracious government.

In between, President Boumediene’s "specific socialism" was embedded in an austere state capitalism and central planning bent on taking short cuts to catch up with the West. A rare combination of modern-traditional autocrat and benevolent tribal chief endowed with a vision, Boumediene was not supported by any effective bureaucratic organization, unlike his counterparts in the former Soviet bloc. A very efficient and occasionally ruthless secret police backed by a monolithic army and associated with populism ensured, in principle, the first condition for nation-building and economic development: domestic tranquility. The second condition, secure international borders, required reconciliation with Morocco to prevent a renewal of the 1963 desert war over disputed territory. This was achieved by the "Ifrane Agreements" in January 1969.23

A unique phenomenon in modern times, Boumediene governed for 11 years without a constitution, without the usual makeshift parliament, without a political party and with near total impunity.24Domestic populist policies offered free education, free medical care, full employment, and electricity and gas to the most remote mountain areas, keeping alive the illusion that it was a government forthe people if not by the people. Externally, Boumediene’s authority and leadership in the nonaligned movement made Algeria at one point, in the words of a U.S. diplomat, "the single most influential country in the United Nations."25 The state did not offer any institutional framework for conflict or crisis resolution. But what is essential is not the decision-making process itself but its fairness and the effect of decisions upon the social body. Overall, these decisions were perceived as just, and tensions were maintained at a minimal level.

The state was not a disguise for the tribe. It did not represent nor pursue the interests of a group or self-serving social category, as it did later under Chadli. The poorest regions of the country benefited from "special development programs," often at the expense of crucial economic considerations. Overall, the state played the neutral role of social mediator, ensuring a certain political and regional balance within the governing "Revolutionary Council" and thus securing either the tacit consent of the governed or their indifference.

Although secularism was not an explicit component of official ideology, the primacy of socialism and nationalism subordinated Islam to secular goals.26 For instance, authoritative religious decrees (fatwas) released industrial workers from the "hardship" of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. In matters considered essential even by traditional Islam — social and familial solidarities and respect for customs, morals and justice — the state was Islamic. In matters considered vital to "modernists,’’ such as freedom of worship and tolerance, the state was secular.27

To understand fully "the apparent paradox of stable and enduring regimes in deeply disturbed societies," Albert Hourani adapted an idea from Ibn Khaldun and suggested that the stability of a regime depended upon a combination of three factors. It was stable when a cohesive ruling group was able to link its interests with those of powerful elements in society, and when that alliance of interests was expressed in a political idea which made the power of the rulers legitimate in the eyes of society, or at least a significant part of it."28

These three major ingredients undoubtedly sustained Boumediene’s regime, since a monolithic army allied itself with the peasants and the workers — the forces vives of the nation — and expressed this alliance with Arabo-Islamism, the "national constants," and socialist ideology.

When an Islamist movement challenged Boumediene’s "National Charter" in 1976 and claimed that socialism was a "heresy," the president did not deploy tanks, as did Chadli Bendjedid in June 1991 to defend another "heresy," democracy. He calmly addressed the nation on state-controlled television and explained that socialism was a continuation of national liberation and was designed to achieve social justice and equality. In the relative social harmony prevailing in the 1970s, it was not socialism as a doctrine that was deemed constitutionally "irreversible," but the social justice and equality that it encompassed and established nationwide (albeit in quite a few instances at the expense of economic rationality): free schooling and health care, full employment, distribution of land to the peasants, special development programs for the poorest regions, etc. "The citizens’ insistence on the question of Islam," proclaimed Boumediene, "is nothing but the expression of their attachment to their identity.... It would be an aberration to construe this attachment as a reactionary frame of mind."29 Silenced and subdued, the Islamists, in spite of their religious halo, conspicuously appeared as what they were: marginal social conservatives with no grass-roots support.

Fifteen years later, President Chadli’s incompetent rule, compounded by the collapse of oil prices in 1986, turned the same isolated Islamist movement into a powerful popular revolutionary force.



Boumediene, in the wake of his June 1965 coup, pledged to create "the conditions for the establishment of a democratic state capable of surviving governments and men,"30 but he governed for twelve years and died without delivering on his promise. He was impervious to the need to develop institutions or fundamental institutional principles. Aggravating this legacy, his successor, Chadli, charted a disastrous economic course fraught with alleged corruption and nepotism when he assumed power in 1979. The Iranian Revolution had just boosted the price of oil to levels unseen in real terms since it was first discovered in the 1850s: $41/barrel.31 However, instead of pursuing and adapting the policies of his late predecessor — austerity, productive investment and creation of jobs — Chadli took actions that led directly to the 1988 riots. To begin with, the regime chose the highly dubious motto "for a better life" and recklessly introduced a new consumption model known as "PAP," (Program Anti-Penuries or the Anti-shortage Program), by means of massive imports of consumer goods ranging from exotic fruits to VCRs and Hondas for the nomenclatura.

In the process, the government cancelled several crucial industrial projects (automobile factories, steel and petrochemical plants, oil refineries, etc.) along with huge contracts for the sale of natural gas to the United States32 and Europe, thereby cutting off substantial financial resources for self-sustaining economic development. And, when Algeria’s oil revenues plummeted by more than 42 percent in 1986, the regime introduced a new slogan, "Hard work and rigor ensure the future," but resorted to costly short-term borrowing to maintain a level of vital imports. The subsequent servicing of the $26-billion foreign debt drained off 75 percent of Algeria’s foreign exchange. In addition, the discovery of North Sea oil33 and technological innovations undermined the power of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC ) and choked small producers like Algeria.

Meanwhile, a spiraling birth rate increased the population by 800,000 annually, and the educational system threw into the streets more than 200,000 dropouts as lack of space in universities forestalled the graduation from high school of more than 80 percent of the students. With an administration and an economy still functioning in the French language, the Arabized graduates and dropouts formed an army of hitistes ("leaners against walls") bitterly resentful towards the "French Party." Agriculture was moribund due to cheap subsidized imports such as grain, oil and milk. The major cities swelled as a result of the influx from the countryside of thousands of young people, sleeping in shifts in packed apartments, spawning shantytowns, and pushing the burglary and petty-crime rates to unprecedented levels. These explosive materials needed only a detonator. It was to be provided by Chadli himself. On September 19, 1988, the president, in a speech in Medea, appealed to the people for help. He admitted his inability to foster urgently needed economic reforms in the face of strong opposition groups within the party controlling the Popular National Assembly. Acute shortages of necessities ranging from spare parts to flour, sugar and potatoes started to occur suddenly as if they had been programmed. Strikes crippled the big industrial complexes near the capital and fed social tensions. Police forces vanished overnight from the streets and public squares. Mysterious provocateurs roamed around in unmarked cars, firing randomly at demonstrators who were setting fire to the symbols of the state: police stations, empty government-owned supermarkets and the FLN headquarters.

The inability of the regime to respond financially to acute popular demands and buy social peace following the collapse of oil prices marked the end of an era. It brought into the open an irrepressible demand for political change mustered by secular (essentially Berber) as well as Islamist groups.



Rather than meet the new political situation immediately on its own grounds — dismiss President Chadli,34 end corruption, restore social justice and effect genuine democratization — the army continued to back a government pretending to establish democracy but resorting to constant deception. At the sixth FLN Congress, in November 1988, President Chadli declared that a multiparty system would be "a danger for national unity and independence."35 But three months later he ignored proposals from Ait Ahmed Hocine, one of Algeria’s founding fathers, for an elected convention to draft a new constitution. Instead he promulgated the constitution of February 23, 1989, granting the right to establish "political associations" (Article 40).

When the FIS scored a stunning victory in local elections in 1990,36 the government, to erode FIS popularity, stripped the Islamist mayors of the most crucial of their prerogatives, the power to sell plots of land to homeless citizens at a symbolic price. This politically unwarranted action backfired, as it prompted the FIS to stage mass demonstrations and demand early parliamentary and presidential elections.

While Chadli pretended to yield to pressures for early legislative elections, his government instituted what was perceived by the FIS as outrageous gerrymandering. The number of seats in the National Assembly was increased from 295 to 430 with most of the new districts added in rural areas assumed to be the ruling party’s strongholds. A general strike called by the FIS to protest the electoral law triggered the riots of June 1991.

Quelling the insurgency, Minister of Defense Major-General Khaled Nezzar declared that the army was fullfilling the mission of "defending the democratic process,"37 only to cancel this process in a coup six months later. Riots, claiming a hundred dead and several hundred wounded (hardly mentioned by analysts of the ongoing civil war), like the massacres of 1945, were the turning point in the mutation of a rather peaceful revolt into a violent confrontation. The Islamists had established several camps in the public squares of the capital from which they staged daily marches. As in 1945, the brutal assault ordered against these camps radicalized the Islamist movement and impelled the activation of the first armed groups. That the onslaught against the Islamists camps occured after they had agreed with Prime Minister Mouloud Hamrouche to dismantle them and end their three weeks of relentless demonstrations was a clear indication that a conservative faction of the regime was determined to destabilize the reformist head of the government. As predicted, the antireformist group prevailed and forced the president to fire his highly regarded prime minister. With Hamrouche dismissed, the sweeping program of reforms to effect the transition from central planning to a market economy vanished.38 The two successive prime ministers, Sid Ahmed Ghozali and Belaid Abdesselam, appointed respectively in 1991 and 1992, represented the old Boumedienist-populist guard staunchly opposed to the rescheduling of the national debt and to Algeria’s joining the global economy, which finally occured in 1995.

Although by all accounts the general strike was a failure, the new prime minister turned it into a total success by promising a new election law and "clean and honest suffrage," a clear admission of attempted electoral fraud. But for nearly five months the FIS adamantly refused to participate in the rescheduled elections, arguing that the government was reneging on its promise as long as FIS leaders and popular candidates remained in prison. Meanwhile, it had to face its own predicaments. During the riots, the demonstrators had displayed little suicidal "fanaticism" or enthusiasm for martyrdom. Unlike in Iran, the age-old tradition of struggle against repression, tyranny or occupation has translated into secret organization and guerrilla warfare. On the other hand, the powerful pro-government trade union, the General Union of the Algerian Workers (UGTA), firmly controlled the Algerian laborers.39 For these reasons, the Iranian scenario — bringing down the regime by crippling the oil and gas industries40 — could not be duplicated. The strike had not spread to the vital oil and gas sectors in the Sahara, and FIS president Abassi Madani, heading south to address oil-industry workers, was stopped midway by security forces and ordered back to Algiers, where he was soon incarcerated. The massive arrests "for armed insurgency" of most of the FIS leaders and elites threw them into a dreadful dilemma: forfeit their demands for fair and unfettered elections or resort to a continuation of politics by other means and condone terrorist actions. The FIS began to experience serious internal strife between the radical "Salafists," the future "GIA,"41 a pan-Islamic group made up mostly of veterans of the war in Afghanistan who advocated pristine "Wahabi" Islam,42 and the "Djazaara," "the Algerianists" or nationalists, the proponents of a peaceful, constitutional takeover.

This fracture was brutally brought into the open on November 29, 1991, three weeks before the elections, when a group of Algerian "Afghans" stormed an army border post and slaughtered three soldiers.43 Raising suspicions that it was a trap set by the army to create an excuse to ban their party, the FIS spokesman and provisional leader, Abdelkader Hachani, vigorously denied any links to the attack and declared a week later that the FIS would run candidates in the parliamentary election. The Djazaara faction had temporarily prevailed and had a slim chance to determine the course of subsequent events, until the cancellation of the elections.



The legislative elections of December 26, 1991, "exploded the thesis of the existence of small groups afraid of marginalization by free elections and consequently tempted to seize power by force."44 The Islamist party not only trounced all its opponents in the first round by capturing 188 of a total of 430 seats; it was also in a commanding position in 162 districts for the second stage.45 The three-fourths majority required to amend the constitution and establish an "Islamic state" seemed secured. Only the president, with two more years on his mandate — or, of course, the army — could thwart such a development.

Two reckless statements by Islamist leaders following their electoral victory were to have dramatic consequences. On December 28, Sheikh Moghni called for the institution of "popular tribunals to put on trial heretics and enemies of the people."46 Then Sheikh Mohamed Said, chairman of the political commission of the FIS, was reported to have told the Agence France Presse that the Algerian people had to prepare for a radical change of their food and clothing habits.47Sheikh Said issued an angry and convincing denial, stressing that he had referred to the austerity needed to rebuild the Algerian economy, but the damage had already been done. These combined declarations were to have a lasting impact on a significant number of Algerian citizens, especially women. To this day, they are the reasons most frequently cited in debates about the interruption of the democratic process by those arguing that democracy cannot benefit a party vowing to end it once in power.

Although to most observers, including government officials, the elections were surprisingly free, honest and peaceful, declarations to the contrary began to surface in the media. Initially, Prime Minister Ghozali had been generous in praising himself for having ensured that the elections had taken place in "peaceful and honest conditions."48 But on January 4, 1992, he changed his mind and claimed that the voting had been marred by pressure and cheating, and "that it was the duty of the Constitutional Council to rule on the results."49 On January 11, five days before the scheduled second electoral stage, President Chadli abruptly "resigned." According to the Constitution (Article 84), the speaker of the National Popular Assembly should have taken over as chief executive for 45 days, during which time he would organize new presidential elections. But Chadli announced at his resignation that he had dismissed the parliament five days earlier. This suggests that he cooperated somehow in his "deposition," ensuring that the speaker of the National Assembly, Abdelkader Belkhadem — known for his strong Islamist inclinations — did not access even temporary power. The Constitutional Council was next in line of succession. However, its chairman, Abdelmalek Benhabiles, invoked an imaginary constitutional vacuum in the face of a double and simultaneous vacancy and surrendered his constitutional powers to the High Security Council (HSC). The HSC, constitutionally a purely consultative institution50 with the defense minister and the army chief of staff as its most prominent members, swiftly took over and declared itself "powerless to continue the electoral process as long as the conditions for the normal functioning of the institutions are nonexistent."51 Democracy was laid to rest, and the stage set for one of the most savage civil wars of modern times.

In retrospect, it is clear that the military spent little time pondering the full consequences of such a high-risk move as foiling the expression of the popular will. After all, much less dangerous alternatives were within reach. For example, if the FIS was guilty of extensive electoral cheating, one option was to cancel the results, repeal the winner-take-all law and institute proportional representation before immediately setting a date for new elections under international monitoring. In private conversations with army officers it was learned that military analysts assessed this option and dimissed it, because in any new fair election the FIS would still score a landslide and enact a revolution that would significantly disrupt social and military hierarchies.

The army had overestimated two factors they strongly believed would play in favor of the ruling party: first, that the FIS had been demonized and discredited in the eyes of the people by allowing the Islamist militants, unchallenged, to disrupt daily life in the capital during three weeks of huge Iranian-style demonstrations.52 The government, in a passive way, encouraged disorder, convinced that the FIS would frighten voters into the arms of the ruling party. It also believed that the detention of the most popular leaders and candidates had decapitated the movement. As it turned out, this was far from the case. The FIS had reached a degree of sophistication in its organization, mobilization and decentralization that enabled it to crush all its "democratic" opponents and win a national election even with its prominent leaders in prison. For "obscurantists," they certainly knew how to use modern campaign techniques to enlist popular support. They had demonstrated it the previous year during the local elections. A consulting firm from Houston, Texas, was hired and, using laser technology, projected in the misty sky of Algiers the word "Allah" before an ecstatic crowd gathered in the stadium. The operation cost $1,000,000, and Saudis picked up the check.53



On the liberal side of the political spectrum, most of the "democratic" parties were rumored to have been set up, financed and controlled by the state, as evidenced by their poor showing in the elections and their zealous backing of the coup. To the average citizen, secular "democrats," shunning any serious frontal challenge to the military, were viewed as "weathervane" political operatives, identified with the rejected regime. By contrast, the FIS appeared to be the only real opposition party capable of ridding the country of its incompetent and corrupt leaders. The FIS was able to seize the spotlight thanks to the nation’s 10,000 mosques. "We control them all," asserted Ali Benhadj, the FIS vice-president. "They are worth 10 TV channels, 100 radio stations....They enable us to reach the real people."54

Just as the Catholic church served as a shelter for political opposition in communist Poland, in a Muslim country the mosque is one institution, it was believed, with which the regime could not tamper. To be sure, all previous governments used religion for their own political objectives. Religion has always been under the control of the state, thanks to conservative family codes and constitutions making Islam the religion of the state [see Boutheina Cheriet in Middle East Policy, Volume 5, Number 3, September 1997 — Ed.]. The imams now drew their effectiveness from the clever use of a combination of homelessness, unemployment, corruption and spiritual reminders that in Islam there can be only one ruler, God. Democracy was branded a heresy.

Overall, the new political topography did not establish a multi-party system but a multi-single-party system in which crucial internal democratic rules, such as electing party leaders, were missing. Indeed, the new constitution spawned 59 parties overnight and spanned an ideological spectrum ranging from secular fanatics to religious extremists. The FIS, for example, was organically structured along the same lines as the FLN under Chadli. Also calling itself a "front," it was endowed with a congress — which never met — a "Majles El’Shura" (consultative council) instead of a central committee, and an executive committee, the counterpart of a political bureau. Abassi Madani, the president of the FIS, was a prominent FLN cadre before equating his former colleagues to stairs that can only be swept from top to bottom. Like many members of the FLN nomenclatura, before he was arrested in June 1991, Madani was rumored to be preparing to enroll his daughter in a Swedish university. Chadli was denounced as taghut, a tyrant, not a heretic. It was his National Assembly that "voted" into law on May 29, 1984, the infamous Family Code that maintained polygamy, banned marriages of women to non-Muslims, and established matrimonial "tutors" for women who cannot travel abroad without notarized permission from their husbands. It is hard to imagine the FIS in power "improving" on the retrograde family-status law now flagrantly violating the constitution.

A third factor, commonly overlooked, may have played a major role in the large electoral success of the FIS. The bastions of ancient tradition and custom were stormed by the Islamists exploiting the tenacious popular attitude, especially in rural areas, of strong deference toward the sheikh, an occasional shaman, an authority on the Scriptures who demands obedience and submission to electoral injunctions and who now issues fatwas for assassinations.

To be sure, the traditional value system is not immutable, as was clearly shown not only during the Boumediene regime, when large Westernized segments of society peacefully coexisted with more traditional social groups, but also during the electoral campaign. Although democracy was disparaged by some Islamists for its "lack of spiritual values" and its negation of the social solidarities, democratic jargon buttressed the Islamist rhetoric of charity organizations across the nation. Such notions as "power rotation," "pluralism" and "state of law" had started to sneak into their publications — El Forkane and El- Munqidh55 — and the declarations of their leaders. "A multiparty system cannot be conceived without the liberty to say ‘no’ when necessary," said the president of the FIS56 ten days before his incarceration, referring to the challenged election law. Ali Benhadj, intervening on the same subject, said: "We demand guarantees as to the absolute respect of the rules of the game. What is the use of going to legislative elections when we know they are rigged in advance?"57

However, irrespective of social, economic and cultural factors and the occassional lavish use of anti-Western — or rather anti-French rhetoric — the failure of the democrats might be best understood with reference to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.58 Primary needs such as food and shelter must obviously be satisfied before the higher ones like individual freedom, for example, or "self-actualization." Liberty in the midst of abject poverty and social exclusion might be meaningless. This partially explains why populist communists promising economic security and order are voted back to power in the former Soviet bloc at the expense of free-market democrats. In Algeria, the most popular Islamist is Ali Benhadj, a blend of Cotton Mather and Malcolm X,59 whose Friday preachings mixed the temporal (homelessness and joblessness) with a spiritual sense of purpose and morality. "The success of the FIS is based on its declared determination to reproduce the FLN, its institutional system, its social compromise, but without the corruption, the arbitrary rule and the incompetence of Chadli’s regime."60

Analysts61 who seek in Islam explanations for the patent electoral failure of democratic Algerian parties might as well look for some masochistic flaw in the Polish or Russian citizens’ minds to explain why they are calling back to power their former "oppressors." Without a dynamic of social and economic progress for the majority of the people, without the liberty/autonomy enjoyed by a growing middle class, democracy will always remain fragile, reversible and even unwanted. As the late French president Fran︽is Mitterrand aptly said, "Democracy without development is nothing but an illusion, a sham to beguile the hopes of the people."62 The new ideology, democracy, which was to supercede state socialism, was perceived by the majority of the people as a gimmick to compensate for the failure of the state in the economic and social spheres. The majority of the Algerian people voted not against democracy, but against a bankrupt regime; not for theocracy, but for the promise of justice and liberation from social, economic and political exclusion. But the implications for the military hierarchy of an Islamist takeover were too threatening to be acceptable.



In terms of power politics, three key factors delineate the preemptive military strike that shattered the hopes of the democratic opposition as well as the expectations of the ordinary voter for radical change. Paramount among them, high-ranking officers shared the fear that they would fall victim to political cleansing since they had conducted the bloody repression of two previous riots and come to the rescue of a hated regime. Rumors of a secret deal between the president and the Islamists began to surface: the FIS would let Chadli complete his mandate in a "cohabitation" formula on condition that a number of generals be fired and perhaps publicly put on trial. In fact, immediately following the euphoria of the FIS landslide, Hachani surprisingly declared that early presidential elections were not a priority. A second factor is directly linked to the Gulf War and may have determined the subsequent Western attitude towards Islamist activists in Algeria. As evidenced by the April 1991 issue of its monthly El Jeish, the army brass was still fulminating over what was seen as an intolerable provocation. In January 1991, Ali Benhadj, in military uniform, in defiance of the law, marched with thousands of his followers on the government headquarters and demanded arms and transportation for volunteers to help Iraq during the Gulf War. This manifestation of solidarity with Saddam Hussein partly explains why the West looked the other way when the military scrapped the elections and provided substance to assertions that political Islam is the highest stage of Arab nationalism63 and may be perceived, at times, as unfriendly to the West.

Lastly, the army was a microcosm of the nation, crossed by the same currents as the rest of society, the most important of which was probably Islamist. Bright and restless officers resented the monopoly on promotions by officers originating from the same region as the president and the generals in command.64 By involving them in a coup and subsequent repression, the generals restored some "esprit de corps" and foiled a conceivable temptation to join forces with the FIS and enact drastic changes, particularly at the highest level of the stratocracy. Not surprisingly, prior to the elections the military had warned President Chadli in no uncertain terms that they would not abide by election results that might jeopardize the status of the army.65



In a zero-sum struggle for power and privilege, the army, ironically, agreed a posteriori with Benhaj, who had decreed democracy to be apostasy. High-ranking officers argued in private that Chile’s Pinochet-type approach to politics and economic development was the only answer to the conflict. In the tradition plaguing political life in the region, the generals were convinced that social and political tensions could easily be dissolved in the acids of economic freedom and "industrious" performance. But the factionized army failed to produce a Pinochet. And six different prime min-isters in the last six years, plus assassin-ations, death threats and sabotage have resulted in the near total paralysis of the managerial elites, a stalled economy, and massive unemployment of the urban youth who provide fodder for the armed groups.

In discussions with top-ranking officers as well as in editorials in the army monthly El Jeish, what was expressed repeatedly was the unyielding belief that they were the exclusive custodians of nationalism and patriotism and that to cede power to the Islamists would be high treason, effectively sending the country back to the Middle Ages. However, the ideological claptrap on both sides cannot disguise the fact that the quarrel is not between opposing notions of popular legitimacy, but between identical negations of popular sovereignty — a choice between plague and cholera. In a culture flagrantly lacking any democratic tendencies, democracy was perceived not as rules and procedures to guide a simple political change of government, but as an opportunity for the winners to displace the privileged and exact revenge. The FIS, if it had accessed power through universal suffrage, would have been unlikely to revert to such extreme deeds, but it did little to alleviate widespread fears among its adversaries about its intentions.



After several years of mayhem, the FIS began to suspect that it may have been duped by the army into moving out of the political arena, where it showed tremendous strength and popularity, into the field of violent confrontation and propaganda, where the military had a clear edge. Because of terrorism, popular support for the Islamists was eroding substantially, and a number of citizens who had cast their ballots for the FIS were now pleading for mercy by voting for the army’s presidential candidate promising peace. Impartial observers abroad continued to express deep misgivings about democracies bringing to power an anti-democratic party. As a consequence, the FIS had second thoughts about democracy, toned down its rhetoric and signed in January 1995, the "Rome Peace Platform" [also known as Sant’Egidio] with seven other credible opposition parties and the internationally respected Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights. The agreement was unprecedented in that it forged a consensus among secularists and Islamists alike. It pledged renunciation of violence as a way to access or remain in power, and called for the liberation of jailed Islamist activists and — most important — for a transitional government in which power would temporarily be shared by the army and the opposition pending the organization of genuine legislative and presidential elections open to all political parties.

Today, although the "Rome Group" has imploded for all intents and purposes,66 its stand — that the conflict cannot be resolved by the force of arms — and spirit — that only democracy can reconcile major ideological differences — still prevail. This was highlighted last April in a meeting in Madrid, where the Group called on the regime to rehabilitate the FIS as a political force and thus remove the root cause of the present violence. The significance of the Rome convention, hailed by The Economist as "an impeccably democratic document,"67 can hardly be overstated. For the first time, the FIS representative admitted officially (1) that his party "was prepared to lay down its arms and pursue its aims in a peaceful and democratic way," stressing that the cancellation of democracy left no other option for the FIS than to take part in the armed struggle and (2) that it has always condemned terrorism.68

That democracy was no longer a heresy to the FIS was clear testimony to the newly embraced political realism of the Islamists. After all, by rejecting democracy as apostasy, they had provided a pretext for the military to abort it and the Western world to look the other way. As expected, the army chose to dismiss the Rome Platform as an encouragement to terrorism and foreign meddling and deliberately missed a crucial opportunity to chain the Islamists to universally recognized rules of democratic government.

The army missed a second chance when, to undercut the opposition, it organized presidential "elections" in November 1995. A former general, Liamine Zeroual, appointed president in January 1994 by a "national convention" shunned by all credible opposition parties, was "elected" president in a pluralist exercise boycotted by the three "fronts" that had won the totality of the legislative seats disputed in 1991. By not ensuring that the principal signatories of the Rome Peace Platform competed in the elections, the military fumbled a rare chance to bestow on Zeroual undisputed authority and legitimacy.

The third and ultimate opportunity to draw the first circle of a concentric-circle peace process was sadly squandered in the June 1997 legislative elections. This suffrage, once again excluding the FIS and proceeding from the anti-democratic constitution69 and election law, sent a clear and forceful message: the military resolve to foil a new intrusion of the people into politics is not faltering. "A baby born with moustaches," the newly created party, the president’s National Democratic Rally (RND) won 155 seats in the 380 National Popular Assembly. Without exception, all parties, including, ironically, the former ruling party, the FLN, accused the military-backed party of cheating. But this is hardly relevant, as the president has already been endowed with enormous constitutional powers. In addition to the exorbitant prerogative to appoint one third of the 144-member upper house, the Council of the Nation, he can dismiss parliament at will and legislate by decree. The other two-thirds of the upper house are to be elected among and by members of municipal and provincial assemblies for which elections were held October 23, 1997. As was widely expected, amidst accusations of widespread fraud, the RND swept that election and captured 8,000 of a total of 15,000 disputed seats or 55 percent of the vote. Since no law can be passed by parliament unless it clears the Council of the Nation by a three-quarters majority, the RND appears to have secured absolute control of the legislative process.

As a consequence, although the successive elections may have opened a Pandora’s box with real opposition parties now in parliament, new societal fractures are likely to occur. The Berbers, who until now had opened only linguistic and cultural fronts, joined the chorus denouncing the constitution’s denial of their identity. Their protest is taking on more and more grave separatist overtones among the young. The tragedy is set to endure for many years to come unless at least two conditions are urgently met.

First and foremost, the Algerian military must be pressured to recognize that the signatories of the Rome Platform represent far more than the political parties that won the 1991 legislative elections. They represent the stuborn, age-old components of national identity — the Amazigh (Berber), the Arab and the Islamic — which no legislative decree or constitution has the power to alter significantly.

Second, the United States alone can exert needed pressure on the various protagonists, particularly the military. An initiative in February 1995 by Europe, politically dominated by France, provoked a strident outcry against foreign meddling. But for once, U.S. diplomacy has shown a remarkable restraint (highlighted by the appointment of a female ambassador to "Islamist" Algeria in 1990). Unlike France, the United States has not taken sides in the Algerian crisis. In hearings in the House of Representatives, Robert Pelletreau, then undersecretary of state for the Middle East, offered an unusually balanced analysis of the Algerian conflict as stemming "from political exclusion, economic misery and social injustice."70 Last January, Algeria’s main secular opposition leader and founding father, Hocine Ait Ahmed, despairing at the inability of the regime to protect its own people from daily massacres, called on President Clinton to appoint a mediator to help bring about a peace process.71 Not long ago, the military coup thwarting the expression of popular will in 1992 was equated by the representative of the FIS in Europe, Rabah Kebir, to the overthrow of Haitian President Aristide in 1991; he called on the United States to treat it as such.

It would surely be uphill work, even conducted behind the scenes, to persuade the Algerian military to accept a return to the genuine democratic elections so critical for social peace. But it is not merely the hard-line generals who need to be converted to democratic rules and procedures. It is, above all, the deadly GIAs. It is also the self-styled "democrats" such as the "Rally for Culture and Democracy," the former communists of the El Tahedi party, the national labor union and some women’s associations. They all called for the interruption of the democratic process in 1992 for fear of a drastic change in their "food and clothing habits" and found themselves trapped in a deadly impasse.



Since the coup d’裨at, the Algerian army brass has been searching, by way of co-optation, coercion and intimidation, for an alternative to the Islamists, while warding off suggestions that it might as well look for a substitute for the Algerian people. Not unlike eighteenth-century French democrats, the army opted willfully for its own restrictive notion of the people, of "civil society," which smacks of distrust for the masses. Fair and unfettered elections, the first step to eradicating violence from politics, would most likely bring to power an Islamist majority and signal the gradual demise of the generals’ overbearing influence in national affairs. "Peace is definitely not in the interest of the army" is the bitter comment most frequently uttered by the average citizen. "In the United States," a weary civil servant once noted, "when the people are displeased with their government they get rid of it. In Algeria it’s exactly the opposite. When the rulers are displeased with their citizens they get rid of them." Consequently, how can a loyal opposition using peaceful means emerge "in a political system where rulers are glued to power for life and ... where even peaceful opposition is hampered, harassed, jailed, tortured and deprived of any opportunity ... to share political power?"72

For now, the military regime is perpetuating itself by fabricating and nourishing a mysterious monster to fight, but it is demonstrating daily its failure to perform its most elementary duty: providing security for the population. In October 1997, troubling reports 73 suggested that a faction of the army, dubbed the "land mafia," might actually be responsible for some of last summer’s massacres, which occured in Islamist strongholds and continued even after the Islamic Salvation Army, the armed wing of the FIS, called for a truce, in effect as of October 1, 1997.

Increasingly, a triple consensus is emerging among political sociologists that will perhaps gain momentum. First, political and social exclusion and a lack of legitimacy inevitably breed extremism, regardless of its ideological articulation. Second, in power the Islamists would quickly discover that the Quran and sharia provide few answers to unemployment and housing problems or to the daunting challenges of multifaceted globalization already engulfing the Muslim world. Third, no political solution can emerge without the inclusion of the FIS in a genuine power-sharing scheme. Barring dialogue and negotiation, violence can only escalate. One should not exclude — in a worst-case scenario — regional spillovers and sabotage targeting the extremely vulnerable oil and gas pipelines, disrupting energy supplies to the West, and bringing down the regime through Iranian-style tactics and engendering Afghan-style anarchy.

There is now a preponderance of evidence from Algeria’s last six years to indicate that the human suffering, environmental devastation and potential regional destabilization have been infinitely greater than they could have been under any imaginable scenario involving an Islamist regime coming to power through universal suffrage. It is hard to dispute that the fundamental source of conflict is a denial of popular legitimacy. To portray it as cultural or ideological, secular or fundamentalist, is misleading and plays into the hands of extremists and anti-democrats alike. What is at stake is an increase or decrease of power and privilege. Neither the army’s nor the FIS’s way of life nor their system of beliefs and ethical convictions are in open discord; they recognize a single Islamic code to which they all give unquestioning allegiance. Realism for U.S. foreign policy in the region should consist in helping bring to power the only reliable entities suited to being long-term strategic partners: popularly elected governments.


1Mohamed Harbi, "L'Algerie prise au piege de son Histoire," Le Monde Diplomatique, May 1994.

2George J. Andreopoulos, "The Age of National Liberation Movements," The Laws of War, Michael Howard, George Andreopoulos, and Mark R. Shulma, eds. (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1994), p.207.


4Hamou Amirouche, "La Democratie et l'Algerie des Occasions Manquees," El Watan, December 1-51992.

5Ataturk in Turkey may be cited as an exception, but even there sociology might be catching up with politics.

6Gareth M. Winrow, "A Threat from the South? Nato and the Mediterranean,"Mediterranean Politics, Vol.1, Summer 1996, pp.50-51.

7The New York Times, January 21, 1996.

8El Watan, January 8, 1992.

9Financial Times, January 9, 1992.

10Gilles Kepel, "Violence islamiste et crise sociale en Algerie et en Egypte," El Watan, February 21, 1994.

11El Watan, October 23, 1994.

12Samuel Huntington, "A Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, p.3; Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1979), p.107.

13For an interesting comparison with Gamel Abdel Nasser, see Mohammed Heikal, Iran: The Untold Story (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979), p.107.

140n the question of relevance to the ideology of socioeconomic transformations, see Mahmood Monshipouri, "Ideology, Economics and Social Transformation: The Iranian Revolution in Perspective," The Muslim World, Vol. LXXXV, No.1-2, January-April 1995.

15Michael Clark, Algeria in Turmoil (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959), p.17.

16Ben Youcef Ben Khedda, Les Origines du premier Novembre 1954 (Alger: Edition Dahleb, 1989), p.263.

17lbid., pp.60-61.

18Youseef M. Choueiri, Islamic Fundamentalism (Boston: Twaine Publishers, 1990).

190n Victory Day, May 8, 1945, peaceful demonstrations organized by the nationalists waving Algerian flags in several cities degenerated into riots in which 100 Europeans and between 12,000 (French sources) and 40,000 Algerians (Algerian estimate) were killed.

20Pierre Devoluy-Mireille Duteil, La Poudriere Algerienne (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1994), pp.119-121.

21Harbi, op. cit.

22"L'Algerie aura un socialisme a la Castro," declared Ben Bella in April 1963. Quoted by Jean Ganiage, Histoire Contemporaine du Maghreb de 1830 a Nos Jours (Paris: Fayard, 1994), p.620.

23Ganiage, op. cit., p.711.

24A coup staged in 1967 by Tahar Z'Biri, Army Chief of Staff, was swiftly crushed by the Air Force.

25Stanley Meisler, United Nations, The First Fifty Years (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995), pp.209-210.

26For the use of religion for political purposes, see Choueri, op. cit., p.71.

27Bashir Hadj Ali, a well known Marxist, proclaimed, without getting his throat slashed, that it was possible to adhere to socialism with the Quran in one hand and Das Kapital in the other.

28Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), p.448.

29Saadi Djamina, La Charte Nationale (Algiers: OPU, n.d.), p.223.

30"Peuple Algerien, un Conseil de la Revolution a 裨� cr遙....Ils' attachera a r褚nir les conditions pour l'institution d'un Etat d蜩ocratique s裸ieux, regi par des lois et bas� sur une morale, un Etat qui saura survivre aux gouvernements et aux hommes." Ministere de l'Information, Documents: Les Discours du Pr製ident Boumediene (Algiers: Imprimerie National, 1966), p.5. It was only in 1976 that Boumediene Lahouri Addi revived a semblance of an institutional apparatus, under popular pressure.

31Daniel Yergin, The Prize (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1992), p.792.

32The Algerian minister of energy demanded a revision of signed contracts to include an indexation of the prices of gas on the sky-rocketing prices of oil. The partners refused and the contracts were cancelled.

33Between the disruption of oil supply by the Iranian revolution in 1979 and the early1980s, OPEC's share of the world's oil production (excluding the Soviet Union) had fallen from 60 percent to 40 percent, and its market share had gone from 53 percent in 1975 to 30 percent in 1984. Furthermore, due to technological innovations, the ratio of 1:1 (in which one percentage unit of GNP growth entails the equivalent in additional increase in energy consumption) was reduced to 0.4. In 1984, in the OECD countries, GNP grew by 5 percent while oil demand increased by only 2 percent. See R.K. Ramazani, Revolutionary Iran (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), p.210. The oil factor was recognized by former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev as having also played a major role in the Soviet Union's imperial overstretch," and the subsequent implosion of the Soviet block. See Mikhail Gorbachev, Memoirs (New York: Doubleday, 1996), p.468.

340ne lone general, Rachid Benyelles, "invited" Chadli to hand in his resignation in the aftermath of the devastating riots in which several hundred people had been killed. Chadli fired the general from his post as minister of transportation, and was re-elected for a third mandate two months after the riots.

35El Moudjahid, November 28, 1988.

36The FIS gained a majority (55.42 percent) in 853 out of a total of 1,539 municipalities; 487 (31.64 percent) went to the ruling FLN, and 87 to the RCD (Rally for Culture and Democracy), while independent candidates won in 106 precincts. See El Moudjahid, June 15-16, 1990.

37E1 Watan, June 5, 1991.

38Promised by Hamrouche for 1991, the market economy hinged on reforms identical to those prescribed for Russia by economist Ed Hewett of the Brookings Institution. These included stabilizing the economy by cutting the state's budget deficit and introducing real competition by suppressing state monopolies and freeing prices. Successive devaluations of currency, coupled with the eventual privatization of the public sector were to achieve the total convertability of the Algerian dinar by 1993. International Herald Tribune, June 4, 1990.

39The FIS made two costly errors. First, it created a parallel labor union, the SIT (Syndicat Islamique du Travail). Second, it broke a strike of garbage collectors called for by the UGTA (the national labor union) two months earlier by mobilizing its followers to clean up the streets of the capital.

40Ramazani, op. cit., p.205.

41The "Armed Islamic Groups" are sometimes bitterly referred to as the "Army Islamic Groups."

42In1745, a religious scholar named Muhamed Ibn Abdaal Wahab supported Muhamen Ibn Saud, ruler of Central Arabia, in his bid to spread what is known as Wahabi Islam, or a return to the pristine Islam of the Quran and the sunna, as practiced by the Prophet Muhammed.

43El Moudjahid, November 29-30, 1991. The attack against the border post occurred on the anniversary of the death of a famous veteran, Azzam Abdellah, assassinated by a car bomb in Pakistan. See John K. Cooley, "Algeria: Has Cold War Blindness Struck Again?" The International Herald Tribune, July 2, 1992.

44Francois Burgat and William Dowell, The Islamic Movement in North Africa (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992), p.308.

45For complete and official election results, see El Moudjahid, December 31, 1991.

46Le Matin, January 22, 1992.

47Le Quotidien d’Algerie, December 27-28, 1991.

48El Wata, December 28, 1991.

49LeMatin, January 6, 1992.

50Established by Article 162 of the 1989 Constitution, and spelled out by Presidential Decree #89196 of October 24, 1989, the "High Security Council," chaired by the president, is comprised of the prime minister, the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, agriculture, justice, the interior, and the economy, and the army chief of staff. Its constitutional prerogatives are purely advisory.

51LeMatin, January 13, 1992.

52Thirty thousand FIS followers marched daily for almost two weeks, chanting such phrases as "We want to settle accounts and not elections ... Political Strike is the beginning of the Islamic State ... the People and the Army are for Islam," etc. Le Monde, May29, 1991.

53Devoluy-Mireille Duteil, op. cit., p. 119.

54Ibid., p.121.

55E1 Forkane, January 22-28, 1992.

56El Moudjahid, June 19, 1991.

57E1 Watan, May 27, 1991.

58Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation And Personality (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), pp.36-37, 97-100.

59Like Cotton Mather who claimed that "democracy was never ordained by God," Mi Benhaj decreed it as "heresy." Benhaj shares support with Malcolm X for an unremitting challenge to the socially unjust "establishment."

60Lahouari Addi, "Dynamique et Contradictions du Systeme Politique Algerien," Le Monde, November 29, 1995.

61Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Avon Books, 1992), p.347

62Le Monde Diplomatique, March 1990.

63Lahouari Addi in El Watan, January 7, 1992. See also Graham Fuller, Algeria: The Next Fundamentalist State? (Santa Monica: Rand, 1996). Pp. xi-xii.

64The "BTS," as they are popularly known. This refers to the Batna-Tebessa-Souk Ahras triangle in the eastern part of Algeria, which has controlled the army and, by extension, state power since independence.

65Ghazi Hidouci, Algerie: La Liberation Inachevee (Paris: Editions La Decouverte, 1995), p.251.

66Two of the signatories of the Rome Convention, the Movement for Islamic Society (Hamas), and the Algerian Renewal Party, fielded presidential candidates in 1995. The two candidates earned 25 percent, and 3 percent of the vote respectively. In the June 5, 1997 legislative elections, and the October 23, 1997 municipal and provincial elections, only the FIS, banned since March 1992, did not participate.

67The Economist, February 18, 1995.

68Jeffrey Donovan, "Algerie: Les Principaux Opposants Proposent Un Plan," Reuters, January 10, 1995.

69"With its constitutional referendum ... the Algerian government went far towards the wrecking job on democracy it began nearly five years ago," The New York Times, December 4, 1996.

70E1 Watan, March 8, 1994.

71Reuters, January 23, 1997.

72 Mumtaz Ahmed and I William Zartman, "Political Islam: Can It Become a Loyal Opposition?" Middle East Policy, Vol. V, No. 1, January 1997

73According to Paris-Match (October 9, 1997), this land Mafia is literally cleansing premium lands of peasant occupants entitled to it in anticipation of the privatization of all the land in 1998. This would explain the killing of would-be inheritors, and their infants and children. It so happens that the slaughter occurs primarily in Islamic strongholds, and it continues even though the "Islamic Salvation Army," controlled by the FIS, has been observing a truce since October 1, 1997.