Algeria is divided into forty-eight wilayat (sing., wilaya), which are, in effect, provinces. The wilayat owe their origins to the colonial system, where they served as bureaucratic units of colonial administration. The system was reformed and expanded (from fifteen provinces to forty-eight) by the Wilaya Charter of 1969, which enumerated a specific legal code for the government of the provinces. The system was reformed again in 1976 by the national constitution.
Each wilaya is governed by a Popular Wilaya Assembly (Assemblée Populaire de Wilaya--APW). This deliberative body consists of thirty deputies and holds elections every five years. The first APW elections were held in May 1969. Each wilaya is also governed by a wali, or governor, who is appointed by the president and is the latter's direct political representative at the regional level. Both the Executive Council of the APW and the APW itself report directly to the wali. Wilaya government is responsible for the distribution of state services; the regulation of small and medium-sized industry, agriculture, tourism, road transport and education institutions; and the creation of new state-owned enterprises. Efforts, most notably in the reforms of the early 1980s, to strengthen the financial and political autonomy of these regional governments have achieved only mixed success. The APWs and other popularly elected bodies were in abeyance in late 1993.
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