After more than a century of rule by France, Algerians fought through much of the 1950s to achieve independence in 1962. Algeria's primary political party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), has dominated politics ever since. Many Algerians in the subsequent generation were not satisfied, however, and moved to counter the FLN's centrality in Algerian politics. The surprising first round success of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in the December 1991 balloting spurred the Algerian army to intervene and postpone the second round of elections to prevent what the secular elite feared would be an extremist-led government from assuming power. The army began a crackdown on the FIS that spurred FIS supporters to begin attacking government targets. The government later allowed elections featuring pro-government and moderate religious-based parties, but did not appease the activists who progressively widened their attacks. The fighting escalated into an insurgency, which saw intense fighting between 1992-98 and which resulted in over 100,000 deaths - many attributed to indiscriminate massacres of villagers by extremists. The government gained the upper hand by the late-1990s and FIS's armed wing, the Islamic Salvation Army, disbanded in January 2000. However, small numbers of armed militants persist in confronting government forces and conducting ambushes and occasional attacks on villages. The army placed Abdelaziz BOUTEFLIKA in the presidency in 1999 in a fraudulent election but claimed neutrality in his 2004 landslide reelection victory. Longstanding problems continue to face BOUTEFLIKA in his second term, including the ethnic minority Berbers' ongoing autonomy campaign, large-scale unemployment, a shortage of housing, unreliable electrical and water supplies, government inefficiencies and corruption, and the continuing activities of extremist militants. The 2006 merger of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) with al-Qaida (followed by a change of name to al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb) signaled an increase in bombings, including high-profile, mass-casualty suicide attacks targeted against the Algerian government and Western interests. Algeria must also diversify its petroleum-based economy, which has yielded a large cash reserve but which has not been used to redress Algeria's many social and infrastructure problems.
soil erosion from overgrazing and other poor farming practices; desertification; dumping of raw sewage, petroleum refining wastes, and other industrial effluents is leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters; Mediterranean Sea, in particular, becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion, and fertilizer runoff; inadequate supplies of potable water
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Arab-Berber 99%, European less than 1% note: almost all Algerians are Berber in origin, not Arab; the minority who identify themselves as Berber live mostly in the mountainous region of Kabylie east of Algiers; the Berbers are also Muslim but identify with their Berber rather than Arab cultural heritage; Berbers have long agitated, sometimes violently, for autonomy; the government is unlikely to grant autonomy but has offered to begin sponsoring teaching Berber language in schools
conventional long form: People's Democratic Republic of Algeria conventional short form: Algeria local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Jaza'iriyah ad Dimuqratiyah ash Sha'biyah local short form: Al Jaza'ir
socialist, based on French and Islamic law; judicial review of legislative acts in ad hoc Constitutional Council composed of various public officials, including several Supreme Court justices; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
chief of state: President Abdelaziz BOUTEFLIKA (since 28 April 1999) head of government: Prime Minister Abdelaziz BELKHADEM cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 8 April 2004 (next to be held in April 2009); prime minister appointed by the president election results: Abdelaziz BOUTEFLIKA reelected president for second term; percent of vote - Abdelaziz BOUTEFLIKA 85%, Ali BENFLIS 6.4%, Abdellah DJABALLAH 5%
bicameral Parliament consists of the National People's Assembly or Al-Majlis Al-Shabi Al-Watani (389 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) and the Council of Nations (Senate) (144 seats; one-third of the members appointed by the president, two-thirds elected by indirect vote; to serve six-year terms; the constitution requires half the council to be renewed every three years) elections: National People's Assembly - last held 17 May 2007 (next to be held in 2012); Council of Nations (Senate) - last held 28 December 2006 (next to be held in 2009) election results: National People's Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FLN 136, RND 61, MSP 52, PT 26, RCD 19, FNA 13, other 49, independents 33; Council of Nations - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FLN 29, RND 12, MSP 3, RCD 1, independents 3, presidential appointees (unknown affiliation) 24; note - Council seating reflects the number of replaced council members rather than the whole Council
Ahd 54 [Ali Fauzi REBAINE]; Algerian National Front or FNA [Moussa TOUATI]; National Democratic Rally (Rassemblement National Democratique) or RND [Ahmed OUYAHIA]; Islamic Salvation Front or FIS (outlawed April 1992) [Ali BELHADJ, Dr. Abassi MADANI, Rabeh KEBIR]; National Entente Movement or MEN [Ali BOUKHAZNA]; National Liberation Front or FLN [Abdelaziz BELKHADEM, secretary general]; National Reform Movement or Islah (formerly MRN) [Mohamed BOULAHIA]; National Renewal Party or PRA [Mohamed BENSMAIL]; Rally for Culture and Democracy or RCD [Said SADI]; Renaissance Movement or EnNahda Movement [Fatah RABEI]; Socialist Forces Front or FFS [Hocine Ait AHMED]; Social Liberal Party or PSL [Ahmed KHELIL]; Society of Peace Movement or MSP [Boudjerra SOLTANI]; Workers Party or PT [Louisa HANOUNE] note: a law banning political parties based on religion was enacted in March 1997
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert S. FORD embassy: 5 Chemin Cheikh Bachir, El-Ibrahimi, El-Biar 16000 Algiers mailing address: B. P. 408, Alger-Gare, 16030 Algiers telephone:  70-08-2000 FAX:  21-60-7355
two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and white; a red, five-pointed star within a red crescent centered over the two-color boundary note: the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam (the state religion)
The hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 60% of budget revenues, 30% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the eighth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the fourth-largest gas exporter; it ranks 14th in oil reserves. Sustained high oil prices in recent years have helped improve Algeria's financial and macroeconomic indicators. Algeria is running substantial trade surpluses and building up record foreign exchange reserves. Algeria has decreased its external debt to less than 10% of GDP after repaying its Paris Club and London Club debt in 2006. Real GDP has risen due to higher oil output and increased government spending. The government's continued efforts to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector, however, has had little success in reducing high unemployment and improving living standards. Structural reform within the economy, such as development of the banking sector and the construction of infrastructure, moves ahead slowly hampered by corruption and bureaucratic resistance.
general assessment: a weak network of fixed-main lines, which remains low at less than 10 telephones per 100 persons, is partially offset by the rapid increase in mobile cellular subscribership; in 2006, combined fixed-line and mobile telephone density surpassed 70 telephones per 100 persons domestic: privatization of Algeria's telecommunications sector began in 2000; three mobile cellular licenses have been issued and, in 2005, a consortium led by Egypt's Orascom Telecom won a 15-year license to build and operate a fixed-line network in Algeria; the license will allow Orascom to develop high-speed data and other specialized services and contribute to meeting the large unfulfilled demand for basic residential telephony; internet broadband services began in 2003 with approximately 200,000 subscribers in 2006 international: country code - 213; landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-4 fiber- optic submarine cable system that provides links to Europe, the Middle East and Asia; microwave radio relay to Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, and Tunisia; coaxial cable to Morocco and Tunisia; participant in Medarabtel; satellite earth stations - 51 (Intelsat, Intersputnik, and Arabsat) (2007)
Algeria supports the Polisario Front exiled in Algeria and who represent the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic; Algeria rejects Moroccan administration of Western Sahara; most of the approximately 90,000 Western Saharan Sahrawi refugees are sheltered in camps in Tindouf, Algeria; Algeria's border with Morocco remains an irritant to bilateral relations, each nation accusing the other of harboring militants and arms smuggling; Algeria remains concerned about armed bandits operating throughout the Sahel who sometimes destabilize southern Algerian towns; dormant disputes include Libyan claims of about 32,000 sq km still reflected on its maps of southeastern Algeria and the FLN's assertions of a claim to Chirac Pastures in southeastern Morocco
refugees (country of origin): 90,000 (Western Saharan Sahrawi, mostly living in Algerian-sponsored camps in the southwestern Algerian town of Tindouf) IDPs: 400,000-600,000 (conflict between government forces, Islamic insurgents) (2006)
current situation: Algeria is a transit and destination country for men, women, and children from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation; many victims willingly migrate to Algeria en route to European countries with the help of smugglers, where they are often forced into prostitution, labor, and begging to pay off their smuggling debt; some Algerian children are reportedly trafficked within the country for domestic servitude tier rating: Tier 3 - Algeria does not adequately identify trafficking victims among illegal immigrants; the government did not take serious law enforcement actions to punish traffickers who force women into commercial sexual exploitation or men into involuntary servitude; the government reported no investigations of trafficking of children for domestic servitude or improvements in protection services for victims of trafficking