Reconfiguring Authoritarianism: Post-Crisis Regime Consolidation in Algeria

By M. Tahir Kilavuz
Submitted to Session P4955 (Rivalry, Revival, and Survival: Contemporary Algerian and Tunisian Contestations and Reconfigurations, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Algeria; Maghreb;
19th-21st Centuries; Comparative; Democratization;
LCD Projector without Audio;
More than two decades before the MENA region was shaken by protest and regime change, Algeria had its own experience with a major political transformation and contestation. After a failed democratization attempt, a coup and an almost decade-long civil war, the Algerian regime once again consolidated itself and has emerged today as one of the most robust authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. This paper seeks to answer the question, “What makes the Algerian authoritarian regime robust?” How did the regime consolidate itself in a successful manner after a near regime collapse? What was the core of the revival of authoritarian regime in Algeria? What made the post-crisis regime different from the pre-crisis regime? Building upon the literature on comparative authoritarianism, this paper answers these questions through a within-case comparison between pre-1989 and current Algerian regimes. It argues that the Algerian regime reconfigured itself during the crises of the 1990s and diversified its survival toolkit. Today, there are three categories of tools that the regime uses for its survival and persistence. First, the regime still relies on a set of pre-1989 tools, such as oil rents. Second, the regime reconfigured some of the old tools such as the coercive apparatus and regime legitimacy during the 1990s. Third, it introduced new tools such as a refashioned multiparty system and political reforms that give further flexibility and resilience against challenges. By this adaptation and diversification of tools, the Algerian experience represents a successful transition from a single-party authoritarianism to a modern electoral authoritarianism. Unlike the pre-1989 regime, the current Algerian regime can benefit from a variety of tools when faced with challenges which render it more robust and resilient. In this regard, Algerian experience combines several arguments in the literature for authoritarian survival that are drawn from the experiences of authoritarianism in post-communist sphere, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East (Ghandi and Przeworski 2007; Bunce and Wolchik 2010; Smith 2005; Heydemann 2007). The paper relies on an extensive fieldwork in Algeria, including an archival research on the old regime and interviews with officials, politicians, journalists and experts most of whom experienced the regime in both periods and witnessed the revival of authoritarianism during the 1990s.