Algeria was a transit point for movement along the coast between Europe and the Middle East from early times and that coastal region is often referred to as the Maghreb.
Early conquerors were the Carthaginians and then the Romans followed by the Byzantines. Islam came to the area in the 8th Century with the invasion by the Arabs. That in turn led to the coming of the Ottomans in the 1500s, although along the coastal areas there was also a strong Spanish influence.
The Barbary Wars of the early 1800s led to the involvement of the United States of America, but the modern Algeria we see today was drawn up by the French in the 1830s.
By the end of World War One nationalism had crept into Algeria and the resistance to the French was led by the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the National Algerian Movement. Whilst Algeria supported France in World War Two, internal tensions grew and widespread protests followed in 1945 with violence leading to a large number of deaths. Subsequent Algerian governments have suggested that the death toll during this period was as high as 50,000.
In 1947 the French National Assembly proposed an Algerian Assembly but it fell short of nationalist demands and the country entered into a war of independence. The war lasted from 1954 to 1962 and as many as one million Algerians are believed to have died.
A referendum was eventually held on 1st July 1962 and Algeria was declared independent on 3rd July 1962.
A new constitution was adopted in September 1963 and Ahmed Ben Bella was elected the first president of Algeria. The war had been very destructive and with many educated people leaving the country further political turmoil ensued. A military coup in 1965 saw Ben Bella replaced by the former defence minister Houari Boumedienne. Power moved to the military controlled Council of the Revolution and eleven years after coming to power a new constitution was introduced and Houari Boumedienne was elected in 1976 with 99.5% of the vote.
Boumedienne died in 1978 and following a power struggle Colonel Chadli Bendjedid was sworn in as the new president on 9th February 1979 having won an election by taking 99.4% of the vote. He won again in 1984 when he took 99.42% and in 1988 with 93.26%.
1989 saw a new constitution which introduced political parties. The resulting 1991 election saw the National Liberation Front, who had ruled since 1962, reduced from 295 seats to just 15 seats in the smaller 231 seat National People’s Assembly. The main winners were the Islamic National Front which won 188 seats, but the army intervened and no further elections were held until 1997.
In those elections the National Rally for Democracy (RND), a pro-government party, took 156 seats and the FLN took 62 seats. In the 1999 presidential election Abdelaziz Bouteflika of the FLN won with 73.8% of the vote. He won again in 2004 taking 85% and when term limits were dropped he stood again in 2009 and won, taking 90.24% of the vote but on a very low turnout.
In 2004 the National Liberation Front, National Rally for Democracy and the Movement of Society for Peace came together to form the ‘Presidential Alliance’ which supports the incumbent president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Between them they hold 249 of the 389 seats in the National People’s Assembly.
The President is elected for a five year term with no term limits.
There is a bicameral Parliament with the National Council and the National People’s Assembly. The National Council consists of 144 members serving six year terms with one half of the members being renewed every three years. 96 members are indirectly elected from 48 x 2 seat wilayas (administrative districts) and the balancing 48 are appointed by the President. The National People’s Assembly has 462 members.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Algeria at joint 108th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 34 (where 100 is least corrupt).