Algerian Civil Society after the Hirak: Independent or Further under Containment and Political Clientelism?

This paper is released under ARI’s Annual Non-Resident Fellowship program. For the full paper, please click on “Download PDF” to the right.

Students and citizens who support them gather to stage a demonstration after the call from Hirak movement, to protest against the parliamentary elections scheduled for 12 June, in Algiers, Algeria on 16 March 2021. © Mousaab Rouibi - Anadolu Agency


This paper is part of the Arab Reform Initiative’s Non-Resident Fellow Project for the year 2021-2022. I presented this topic during the major events that Algeria has witnessed since 2019, notably the peaceful uprising that started on 22 February 2019 against Bouteflika's rule, with growing calls for establishing a State where the rule of law, freedom, democracy, and social justice prevail. Algerians observed the Arab Spring events with great concern, due to its negative outcomes in Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia (albeit to a lesser extent), a concern that kept the protest movements peaceful. They later succeeded in overthrowing Bouteflika and forced the judiciary to launch a wide-scale crackdown on the government to weed out the corrupt who were treating the State as their private property.

However, the political process that emerged from the Hirak movement did not lead to consensus nor did it bring new blood to the country’s political elite or break from the political practices that dominated Algeria since independence.

To assess the impact of the Hirak on the structure of the Algerian political system and the depth of the change the government underwent, this paper uses the civil society lens to analyze the mechanisms used by the authorities to contain and subjugate the associative movement. One of the indicators used to measure change is the degree of independence civil society has from the government since maintaining a façade of pluralism is no longer a criterion for measuring democracy or determining the degree of change and breaking with clientelist, sectarian, and regionalist practices that have existed since independence in Algeria. Civil society has long been the bearer of democracy, and there can be no change, transformation, or a clear break without an independent civil society. Therefore, this paper will try to determine whether the post-22 February 2019 political process is moving towards strengthening the independence of civil society or undermining it.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.