Magazine article The Middle East

Back to the Ballot Box?

Magazine article The Middle East

Back to the Ballot Box?

Article excerpt

In 1992 the Algerian army stepped in to halt an election which looked certain to be won by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a then legally recognised political organisation, since outlawed as being populated by "extremist rebels". The civil conflict that resulted from the aborted election is now claiming hundreds of lives a week, with fighting as bad or worse than that which after eight years, eventually toppled French rule in the country 32 years ago.

Because of a virtual news blackout imposed by President Lamine Zeroual, the full extent of the carnage has gone largely unreported. Foreigners are at the top of the rebels hit list and most overseas journalists have left the country. Their Algerian counterparts risk death for what they write. Official estimates put the death toll since January 1992 at between 10,000 and 20,000, though French intelligence sources say it is almost certainly higher than that. Police, politicians, journalists, doctors, teachers, even nuns and children have been murdered by the rebels. Meanwhile government-sponsored death squads, known as Ninjas, kill young men who are believed to be potential Islamic militants, according to human rights organisations.

A dialogue between the government and the FIS was short lived, collapsing after just a few weeks. And now, to compound the problem, the appearance of other groups, among them the Armed Islamic Group, the GIA, often more radical than the FIS, has complicated matters even further.

President Zeroual announced in a broadcast to the nation that a presidential election will take place in Algeria before the end of 1995. "inspite of all the efforts, the positions between the different parties and between the parties and the state, including the position of the banned party, remain far apart", the statement noted. While an election in late 1995 would cut the president's term of office by a year - elections were not expected until the end of 1996 - the announcement was met with derision in certain quarters. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.