Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Resisting change

Voters in Algeria this month gave a fourth five-year term to its chronically ill president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 77. His victory leaves unanswered the question of who really runs the North African country, since he almost certainly does not.

A group of Algerian military officers and senior party and government officials has held power for many years. Algeria has substantial oil and gas wealth, although its people do not enjoy a high standard of living.

Still, Algeria has avoided the so-called Arab Spring that spread through most of the other nations of the region, bringing unrest and major change. Algeria went through an attempt at change with elections in 1991, which Islamic parties won.

The Algerian establishment and military beat back the victors and reversed course, killing an estimated 100,000 people. The United States supported the overturning of the election results, in the name of keeping Islamists out of power. Algeria’s previous history includes a ferocious war against colonial France and the large segment of Berbers in its Arab-majority population.

Despite his illness, the re-election of Mr. Bouteflika was expected. Whether Algeria’s elite can continue to resist change remains an open question.

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