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Local Government History

The historical development of the Algerian political system has created a centralized government with little local autonomy. Socialist-inspired centralized planning and the reliance on an official state political party for popular participation in the 1960s and 1970s led to concentration of power at the top of the political structure. In recent years, the Algerian government has sought to decentralize power to local political institutions, but these reforms have remained limited. Most local government institutions in Algeria administer and distribute the public services of the central government. The extensive national administrative system limits local autonomy and initiative.

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Administrative Divisions

Algeria is divided into 48 provincial territories that are each governed by a provincial governor appointed by the president. In 2000, the city of Algiers lost its unique cabinet-level political status and was reduced to a provincial government. Governors act as representatives of the president in provincial affairs and report to the Ministry of Interior. An elected executive council acts as the legislative body in each province. Since 1989, the most effective political decentralization has occurred at the provincial level. Provincial governments are responsible for the distribution of state services, the regulation of small and medium businesses, administration of agriculture, tourism, roads, and education. Urban areas of provinces are divided into municipal authorities, while rural areas are governed by the People’s Communal Assemblies enjoying little autonomy. There are 1552 municipalities in Algeria. Municipal governments are subordinate to the provincial administration, but each has an elected assembly and an elected mayor.

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Municipal and Local Government Budgets

The wilayas and municipalities, administered by elected bodies, are legal entities that have their own budgets. Most of the funding comes, however, from the central government, which supervises and oversees their respective budgets. The Ministry of the Interior supervises the wilaya budgets, while the governors, who are appointed, not elected, supervise the municipal budgets.

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Reform: Fiscal Decentralization

The nation's public works have suffered during the violence of the last decade. The Ministry of Public Works, Environment and Urbanization lacked the funds to effectively implement repairs and new development projects until 2001, when the government launched a three-year $7 billion Economic Recovery Program. In 2004 it was expanded to $55 billion over 2005-09, some of which would trickle down to local authorities.

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Local Elections

Local elections were most recently held on 10 October 2002. Seventeen million voters went to the polls to elect their representatives in 48 provinces and 1541 municipalities. 24 political parties participated in these elections. The turnout was 50% of eligible voters. The National Liberation Front Party (FLN), headed by the Prime Minister Mr. Ali Bin Flis, won 4878 municipal seats out of a total of 13981 seats. That gain enabled the FLN to head 730 out of 1541 municipalities. The Democratic National Rally (RND), which is backed by the government, came second by winning 2827 municipal seats, thereby heading 272 municipalities. The National Reform Movement (MNR or Islah), a legally licensed Islamist party, occupied the third place by winning 1237 municipal seats, thereby heading 68 municipalities. The fourth place was taken by the Movement for a Peaceful Society (MSP), another Islamist political party, which won 989 municipal seats and controlled 45 municipalities.

As for the concurrent elections to the provincial assemblies, the FLN won 798 seats out of a total of 1960 seats thereby almost controlling 44 provincial assemblies out of 48. The National Reform Movement came in second place by winning 374 provincial seats, and the Democratic National Rally came in third place by winning 184 seats. In general, the municipal elections proceeded smoothly, except for some disturbances in the two provinces of Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia in the tribal region where Berber extremists burned the election boxes and disrupted the electoral process in 52 municipalities out of a total of 129 municipalities in the tribal district. The minister of interior promised new elections in the 52 municipalities where elections were disrupted as a result of boycott and violence.

President Bouteflika issued a decree on July 17, 2005 dissolving municipal and local councils in the predominantly Kabyle (Berber) governorates of Tizi Ouzou, Boumerdes, Bejaia and Bouira, in order to conduct new partial elections in these provinces. No elections were conducted in most of the municipalities in the area during the local elections of October 2002, while some municipal councils had been elected by less than 1% of eligible voters. The president's decision complies with an agreement between the government and the "Al-Uroush Coordinating Body" of Berber leaders concluded in January 2005 that satisfied the basic demands of the protest movement in that area.

Partial provincial and municipal elections in the Kabyle area took place on November 24, 2005. The number of registered voters was 1.1 million, and 9871 candidates competed over 1181 municipal seats in 7 provinces and over 90 provincial council seats in the provinces of Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou. The ministry of interior announced that participation rate was 30%, and that elections proceeded in a normal manner. Final results were as follows: the Front of Socialist Forces came ahead of competing parties by winning 15 provincial council seats and 188 municipal council seats. The Rally for Culture and Change came second by winning 11 provincial council seats and 139 municipal seats. The "National Liberation Front" party won 11 provincial council seats and 125 municipal council seats. The "National Democratic Rally" party won 5 provincial council seats and 73 municipal seats.

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