Last Update 14:0
Friday, 24 September 2021

Algeria: Big, volatile and oil dependent

Here are some key facts about Algeria, a North African country of 44 million which was voting Saturday in its first parliamentary election since a popular uprising swept its longtime president from power in 2019

AFP , Saturday 12 Jun 2021
Algeria
Women carry banners as they march during a protest marking International Women's Day in Algiers, Algeria March 8, 2021. REUTERS
Share/Bookmark
Share/Bookmark

Here are some key facts about Algeria, a North African country of 44 million which was voting Saturday in its first parliamentary election since a popular uprising swept its longtime president from power in 2019.

Africa's biggest country

Algeria is Africa's biggest country, although most of its territory is desert.

More than 80 percent of the population lives along the Mediterranean coast, where the capital Algiers is located. Nearly 54 percent are younger than 30.

The country counts some 10 million ethnic Berbers, most of them living in Kabylie, a mountainous region to the east of Algiers.

Algeria's official languages are Arabic and the Berber language Tamazight but not French, although it is widely spoken.

Former French colony

A French colony since 1830, Algeria became independent in 1962 after a vicious war which lasted nearly eight years.

In 1963, Ahmed Ben Bella, secretary general of the National Liberation Front (FLN) which had led the struggle against French rule, became the first president.

Two years later, the FLN's Houari Boumediene overthrew and jailed Ben Bella, continuing to run Algeria as a one-party state until his death in 1978.

Colonel Chadli Bendjedid was then elected president, a post he held until 1992.

Civil war

In 1988, violent protests rocked Algiers, prompting the authorities to declare a state of emergency.

The army clamped down on demonstrators but introduced political reforms which brought an end to the single-party system.

However, when the country held its first multi-party parliamentary election in 1991, the army stepped in to prevent the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) from winning a sweeping majority.

That sparked a civil war between 1992 and 2002 in which some 200,000 people were killed. The Armed Islamic Group (GIA) claimed responsibility for many massacres of civilians.

At the height of the conflict, FLN veteran Abdelaziz Bouteflika won the 1999 presidential election.

'Hirak' protests

Bouteflika won a fourth term in 2014 despite suffering a stroke the previous year which confined him to a wheelchair.

His bid for a fifth term in 2019 sparked mass protests, which forced Bouteflika to resign on April 2 after he lost the support of the powerful military.

On December 12 that year, Bouteflika's former premier Abdelmadjid Tebboune won the presidential election on an official turnout of less than 40 percent.

The movement born out of the protests, known by the Arabic word Hirak, immediately rejected Tebboune, demanding an end to the system of governance in place since independence.

The movement has called for a boycott of Saturday's parliamentary vote too.

Oil-dependent

The Algerian economy retains a large state sector from its long years of single party rule.

It is Africa's third-biggest oil producer and among the world's top producers of natural gas.

Oil revenues help subsidise fuel, water, health care, housing and basic goods.

But they have fallen sharply in the face of the global economic slowdown triggered by the Covid pandemic.

Oil and gas represent around 90 percent of Algeria's total exports. Its hard currency reserves have plummeted from $180 billion in 2014 to less than $50 billion this year.

President Tebboune has acknowledged Algeria's continued "vulnerability" to oil price fluctuations after successive governments failed to take action to diversify the economy.

Search Keywords:
Short link:

 

Latest

© 2010 Ahram Online.