The Elite

The Elite

Historically, the elite enjoyed its greatest preeminence under the socialist Boumediene regime, with its emphasis on heavy industrialization. The elite includes civil service employees, the technocratic top personnel in the state's major nationalized industries and enterprises (e.g., the National Company for Research, Production, Transportation, Processing, and Commercialization of Hydrocarbons and the National Company for Electricity and Gas), and economic and financial planners responsible for the national development program. Together these elite groups are responsible for planning, developing, focusing, and administering Algeria's economic and industrial sector. Having expanded significantly under Boumediene, this sector contracted substantially with the economic liberalization under Benjedid, although it remained a vital force and, historically, the most efficient and productive sector of the national elite. Because personal contacts and privileged access to capital account for personal status and class in Algeria, the administrative elite and its networks represent a major factor in the political environment. The administrative elite, although generally less politically visible than the party and military elites, can directly influence development by managing programs linked to economic growth and political stability.

Since the late 1980s, the administrative elite has provided a pool of technocrats for the staff of both the civilian government and the military presidency, which rely heavily on them in modernizing Algeria's economy. At the same time, the administrative elite has increasingly been plagued by factionalism.

The other major elements of the elite consist of the FLN and the military. Within the FLN, the Party Congress is the highest political organ. It consists of national delegates, representatives from the various mass associations and professional unions, local and regional elected officials, APN deputies, and military leaders. The congress determines general party policy, adopts and revises party statutes, and elects both the secretary general of the party and its Central Committee. The Central Committee, which is divided into various commissions, is an elected assembly that serves only during recesses of the Party Congress.

The military, consisting primarily of the People's National Army (Armée Nationale Populaire--ANP), has remained a constant force in Algerian politics, at times quite visible, at times more subtle. The military's most potent source of power emanates from its monopoly of the coercive instruments of force. Equally significant, however, is the military's symbolic role as "guardian of the revolution" and guarantor of state stability. Its technical and administrative skills have been critical to Algeria's political and economic development. A certain domestic prestige stems from the military's influential role in regional and international affairs. The military is also very active in local and provincial affairs. Army officials are represented on all major political institutions and frequently have more influence in regional administration than do the civilian provincial governors.

Historically, the army has interfered only when conditions "necessitated" military intervention to ensure the security of the state. In January 1992, only days away from national legislative elections that were likely to return a sweeping Islamist victory, the military resurfaced politically in a highly visible manner. Anticipating what the armed forces interpreted to be a "grave threat" to the secular interests and political stability of the state and defying the apparent government and national volition, the military demonstrated that it alone would determine the course of Algerian politics.


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