Algeria is so far the only country in North Africa not to have experienced sustained mass protests calling for political change. The government in Algiers has by no means remained indifferent to the groundbreaking events in neighbouring countries, but it is responding to this sweeping wave of change at its own pace. This paper argues that, despite its apparent stability, the Algerian polity suffers from underlying currents of instability that risk undermining the long-term sustainability of the state. It identifies the failure of the country’s political and economic transitions and its implications as the most serious challenge confronting the Algerian state today. Unless a) the process of democratic transition that was initiated in 1989 is refined and put back on track, leading to the advent and consolidation of the rule of law, popular enfranchisement and total civilian control of the military; and b) the efforts to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons are intensified and made more coherent, Algeria will remain susceptible to future instability. This is all the more pertinent given that the country is heading towards a crossroads where the issue of generational transition will also become imperative for the current leadership to deal with.
Hakim Darbouche is Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.