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    Postcolonial Algeria, 1962-78

    President Boumediene's speech, 1967

    The creation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria was formally proclaimed on September 25, 1962. The following day, after being named premier, Ahmed Ben Bella formed a cabinet that linked the leadership of the three power bases—the army, the party, and the government. However, Ben Bella's ambitions and authoritarian tendencies ultimately led the triumvirate to unravel and provoked increasing discontent among Algerians. 

    The war of national liberation and its aftermath had severely disrupted Algeria's society and economy. In addition to the physical destruction, the exodus of the colons deprived the country of most of its managers, civil servants, engineers, teachers, physicians, and skilled workers. The homeless and displaced numbered in the hundreds of thousands, many suffering from illness, and some 70 percent of the work force was unemployed. The months immediately following independence had witnessed the pell-mell rush of Algerians, their government, and its officials to claim the property and jobs left behind by the Europeans. In the 1963 March Decrees, Ben Bella declared that all agricultural, industrial, and commercial properties previously owned and operated by Europeans were vacant, thereby legalizing confiscation by the state. 

    A new constitution drawn up under close FLN supervision was approved by nationwide referendum in September 1963, and Ben Bella was confirmed as the party's choice to lead the country for a five-year term. Under the new constitution, Ben Bella as president combined the functions of chief of state and head of government with those of supreme commander of the armed forces. He formed his government with no need for legislative approval and was solely responsible for the definition and direction of its policies. Essentially, he had no effective institutional check on his powers. 

    Opposition leader Hosine Ait-Ahmed quit the National Assembly in 1963 to protest the increasingly dictatorial tendencies of the regime and formed a clandestine resistance movement, the Front of Socialist Forces (Front des Forces Socialistes—FFS) dedicated to overthrowing the Ben Bella regime by force. Late summer 1963 saw sporadic incidents attributed to the FFS. More serious fighting broke out a year later. The army moved quickly and in force to crush the rebellion. As minister of defense, Houari Boumediene had no qualms about sending the army to put down regional uprisings because he felt they posed a threat to the state. However, when Ben Bella attempted to co-opt allies from among some of those regionalists, tensions increased between Boumediene and Ben Bella. On June 19, 1965, Boumediene deposed Ben Bella in a military coup d'état that was both swift and bloodless.

    Boumediene immediately dissolved the National Assembly and suspended the 1963 constitution. Political power resided in the Council of the Revolution, a predominantly military body intended to foster cooperation among various factions in the army and the party. Boumediene’s position as head of government and head of state was not secure initially, but following attempted coups and a failed assassination attempt in 1967–68, Boumediene succeeded in consolidating power. Eleven years after he took power and after much public debate, a long-promised new constitution was promulgated in November 1976, and Boumediene was elected president with a 95 percent majority.

    Boumediene’s death on December 27, 1978, set off a struggle within the FLN to choose a successor.

    source : Library of Congress, 2008

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    Item Reviewed: Postcolonial Algeria, 1962-78 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Algeria Gate
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