Algeria government to lift 19-year state of emergency

[JURIST] Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said Monday the government will end the 19-year-old state of emergency laws amidst growing protests in Algeria and the ongoing protests in Tunisia and Egypt. Medelci told French radio station Europe 1 that the state of emergency will end in a few days [Al Jazeera report] but dismissed concerns that Algeria could end up like Tunisia and Egypt. The announcement comes after large demonstrations erupted across the country, with thousands violating a police ban by protesting in the capital Algiers. Medelci said that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was considering making concessions and adjusting the government. Bouteflika's comments earlier this month also suggested an end to the state of emergency.

Algeria has been under a state of emergency since 1992 when the military canceled elections [WP report] fearing a win by religious fundamentalists. The state of emergency was declared [DOS backgrounder] after it became apparent that the militant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) would win control of the government. The FIS grew in popularity after Algeria's new constitution in 1989 that allowed multiple political parties. Bouteflika came to power, winning the presidency in 1999 with 70 percent of the official vote and appearing to have the backing of the military. Algeria has struggled to maintain a stable government since gaining its independence from France in 1961. Voters in France overwhelmingly approved self-determination [JURIST backgrounder] for Algeria on January 8, 1961, by a 75 percent margin, ending nearly a decade of fighting in the French-Algerian War. On July 1, 1961, Algerians elected to become an independent nation by a near-unanimous margin.

 

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