Structure of the National Government

Structure of the National Government

Since independence in 1962, Algeria has had three constitutions. The first of these was approved by a constitutional referendum in August 1963, only after prior approval and modifications by the FLN. Intended as a means of legitimizing Ben Bella's new regime, the constitution also established Algeria as a republic committed to socialism and to the preservation of Algeria's Arab and Islamic culture. The constitution lasted only two years, however, and was suspended upon Colonel Boumediene's military coup in June 1965. For the next ten years, Algeria was ruled without a constitution, although representative local and provincial institutions were created in the late 1960s in Boumediene's attempt to decentralize political authority. In 1976 the National Charter and a new constitution were drafted, debated, and eventually passed by national referenda. Together, these documents formed the national constitution and ushered in the Second Algerian Republic. The new constitution reasserted the commitment to socialism and the revolutionary tradition of the nation, and established new government institutions, including the APN. The 1986 revisions continued the conservative nature of the previous constitutions but increased the role of the private sector and diminished the socialist commitment.

The revised constitution of February 1989 altered the configuration of the state and allowed political parties to compete, opening the way for liberal democracy. The new constitution removed the commitment to socialism embodied in both the National Charter and the constitution of 1976 and its 1986 revision. The references to the unique and historic character of the FLN and the military's role as "guardian of the revolution" were eliminated. The provisions for a unicameral legislature remained.

In what was considered a sweeping mandate of support for the liberalization efforts of Benjedid, a referendum on the 1989 constitution passed February 23, 1989, with a 75 percent approval and a 78 percent participation rate. The changes embodied in the constitution were not universally accepted, however. Within a month after the ratification of the new constitution, a number of prominent senior military officers resigned from the FLN Central Committee to protest the revisions. The most divisive issues included the separation of the religious institution and the state; the abandonment of the commitment to socialism; and the liberalization of political life, allowing independent political parties.

The 1989 constitution established a "state of law," accentuating the role of the executive and, specifically, the president, at the expense of the FLN. The president, having the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister at will, and maintaining singular authority over military affairs, emerged as the dominant force. The FLN became but one of many political parties. The responsibilities of the army were limited to defense and external security. Moreover, the army was obliged to become less visible because of its role in suppressing the October 1988 revolts.

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