Political Configuration: The Army-Party-State Triangle

Political Configuration: The Army-Party-State Triangle

All national power and decision-making authority rest in the hands of a select elite and a select group of institutions. This elite structure has been characterized by its triangular configuration of army, party, and state. This configuration persists despite its fluidity--vacillating between peaceful coexistence and vehement competition for dominance. Events of the early 1990s and the subsequent realignment of this political configuration in favor of the military pose substantial challenges for Algeria's future development and stability because the administrative elite and top party functionaries have been relegated to a subordinate position.

In the years immediately following independence, no one faction of the political elite could control the entire political system. National preoccupation with state stability and political consolidation ensured a relatively stable balance among the competing elite factions. Under Boumediene, the party was reduced to a minor role while a civil-military autocracy in the form of the Council of the Revolution emerged as the predominant political force--consistent with Boumediene's vision of the development of a stable and secure, heavily centralized government. The party and other national institutions were allowed to disintegrate to preclude the emergence of any significant opposition to his highly concentrated government.

Renewed political institutionalization and mass politicization in the late 1970s countered this diminution of the party's role. The 1976 National Charter and constitution acknowledged the party's historical role while enhancing its position as the single legal party affiliation under which candidates could run in the newly created local, regional, and national assemblies. The elimination of the Council of the Revolution and the subsequent absorption of its remaining members into the Party Congress of the FLN after Boumediene's death further enhanced the party's national status.

Benjedid's regime, despite a reduction of formal executive powers immediately preceding his assumption of office, was marked by "power consolidation" that strengthened his personal control at the expense of state, military, and especially party elites. The deemphasis on personal politics (at least at the highest levels of government) and the increased importance of institutional life, however, eventually opened the way for the army's return as the dominant political force by greatly undermining the other sides of the political triangle.

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