The Deluge: Algeria’s Pending Succession Crisis

The Deluge: Algeria’s Pending Succession Crisis
Protesters confront police during a demonstration calling for a boycott of presidential elections, Bejaia, Algeria, April 5, 2014 (AP photo by Sidali Djarboub).

In its more than 50 years of independence since the end of French colonialism, Algeria has seen a failed experiment with socialist economic development, taken stabs at halfhearted economic and political liberalizations and defeated a bloody Islamist rebellion against the state. Yet today, the country still faces important challenges, including social transformations, economic uncertainty despite oil and gas wealth, and a worrisome political sclerosis. All of these challenges might become exacerbated by a pending leadership succession whose smoothness is far from guaranteed.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika may not complete his fourth term due to poor health associated with a stomach ailment and a stroke he suffered in April 2013, which incapacitated him physically. Bouteflika is one of very few remaining leaders from the successful 1954-1962 war of independence against France. At 77 years old, however, he is heading a country where 70 percent of the population is under 30.

The Rise and Fall of Bouteflika

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