Algeria, State Institutions

1.   EXECUTIVE POWER

The State Presidency

The President of the Republic is Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, and responsible for National Defence. He must be of Algerian origin, a Muslim, and more than 40 years old. He is elected by universal, secret, direct suffrage. His mandate is for five years, and is renewable once. The President presides over meetings of the Council of Ministers. He drafts, coordinates, and implements his government’s programme, which he must present to the Assembly for ratification. The President also presides over the High Security Council, which advises on all matters affecting national security.

The State Presidency was attributed by the High Security Council (HCS) after the « national consensus conference » of January 1994 to General Liamine Zeroual. His mandate was confirmed by the presidential election of November 1995. The constitutional reform of November 1996, approved by referendum but contested by the body of opposition forces, considerably enlarged the scope of presidential powers.  Since the 1999 elections, presidency is assured by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose term was renewed in April 2004.

The Council of Ministers / Government

The Council of Ministers is presided by the Prime Minister or Chief of Government, himself appointed by the President of the Republic. A new government was nominated in June 2002, and the latest reshuffling took place in October 2003. The current Prime Minister is Ahmed Ouyahia, since Ali Benflis was sacked by President Bouteflika in May 2003.

The General Secretariat of Government

The General Secretariat of the Government, body of the Presidency of the Republic placed under the direct authority of the President of the Republic, is directed by the Secretary General of the Government who is appointed by presidential decree in application of article 78-5 of the Constitution.

It is the instrument of technical coordination of the governmental activity in legal matters and underlies the state’s normative organization.
Within the framework of its missions, the General Secretariat of the Government is namely in charge of:

  • Coordinating the governmental normative activity,
  • Controlling the conformity of laws and regulations drafts,
  • Assisting the President of the Republic and the head of Government in the preparation of Cabinet meetings (The Council of Ministry) and of Government Councils,
  • Helping the authorities concerned in the preparation of the agenda of the Cabinet and Government councils and its transmission to members of the Government,
  • Drafting and conservation of the minutes and conclusions of the proceedings of the Cabinet meetings as well as notifying decisions to members of the Government,
  • Preparing texts to be submitted to the signature of the President of the Republic or the head the Government,
  • Following all the stages of the legislative procedure namely with regard to the deposit of draft laws to the National Popular Assembly, the receipt and the treatment of propositions of laws,
  • Enacting and publishing texts of legislative and regulatory nature to the Official Journal of the people’s Democratic Republic of Algeria,
  • Implementing the Constitutional power of the President of the Republic in matters of seasing of the Constitutional Council,
  • Handling the relationships between the Government and the State Council.

Beyond these traditional missions, services of the General Secretariat of the Government carry out studies and contribute to the analysis of national or sector linked files in the light of the governmental program.

2.   LEGISLATIVE POWER

The Parliament

Bicameral since the new constitution came into force in 1996, the Parliament is composed of the National People’s Assembly and the Council of the Nation. Both the Head of Government and the two chambers may initiate legislation. Legislation must be deliberated upon respectively by the National People’s Assembly and the Council of the Nation before promulgation. Any text passed by the Assembly must be approved by three-quarters of the members of the Council in order to become legislation.

The National People’s Assembly

The first legislative election in Algeria took place on the 20th of September 1962, only a few months after national independence. The Assembly, elected for a one-year mandate, had as its mission to promulgate the country’s fundamental law.  This resulted in the birth of the 1963 Constitution, which established the monocameral principle for the Algerian parliament. The mandate of this National Assembly was prolonged for one year, in accordance with article 77. The recourse by the President of the Republic on the 3rd of October 1963, to the full exercise of powers, in conformity with article 59 of the Constitution, resulted in the freezing of the Assembly’s activities. From 1965 to 1976, a Revolution Council was instituted at the head of the Algerian State. On the 22nd of November 1976, in the context of the completion of the State institutions, a new constitution was enacted, establishing a single chamber named the National People’s Assembly, responsible for exercising legislative power, elected on the 25th of February 1977 for a five-year term, and renewed regularly in 1982 and 1987.

The constitutional amendment made in February 1989 did not depart from the monocameral principle by maintaining the National People’s Assembly, even though it endorsed the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive powers (Art. 92). The renewal of this Assembly was interrupted by the President’s resignation, which created a legal vacuum. This brought about the establishment of provisional structures (the State High Committee and the Advisory National Council, then the National Council of Transition), until the constitutional revision took place on the 28th of November 1996. this completely modified the Algerian institutional makeup by the introduction of a bicameral parliament, composed of the National People’s Assembly (389 members) and the Council of the Nation (144 members). These were elected on the 5th of June 1997, and constitute the first pluralist parliament of independent Algeria. The latest legislative elections took place on the 30th of May 2002.

The 389 members of the Assembly are elected by universal, direct, secret suffrage in 48 multi-member constituencies – corresponding to country’s wilaya (administrative districts) – with seats allotted according to the population: one seat for every 80,000 inhabitants and one supplementary seat for every fraction of 40,000. No wilaya has less than four seats. The election is based on proportional representation. Only lists obtaining 5% or more of the popular vote are allocated seats. Voting is not compulsory, and the minimum age required for voting is 18 years old.

The Council of the Nation

The Council of the Nation is the second chamber of the Algerian Parliament. Instituted for the first time by the 1996 Constitution (Art. 98), the Council of the Nation comprises 144 members, of which two thirds, i.e. 96 members, are elected by indirect secret suffrage by the elected members of the local assemblies (Popular Communal Assemblies and Wilaya Assemblies) in each wilaya. The remaining third, i.e. 48 members, is appointed by the President of the Republic. The duration of the Council’s mandate is six years, a renewal by half taking place every three years.
The Council of the nation exercises legislative power, together with the National People’s Assembly. Under this banner, it votes the laws with the majority of ¾ of its members (Art. 120). Only texts previously adopted by the NPA may be seized, but may not be amended. In the case of discord between the NPA and the Council of the Nation, an ad-hoc commission composed of equal numbers is set up in order to put forward a revised text, which is then subject to approval by both chambers, without possibility of amendment.

The Constitutional Council

The Constitutional Council was instituted by the Constitution on the 23rd of February 1989. It is responsible for ensuring that the Constitution is respected, and that referendums, the election of the President of the Republic and legislative elections are conducted in accordance with the law.
Its composition, its powers, the duration of its members, the domains and times of control, the constitutional authorities capacitated to seize it, and finally the opinions and decisions which it pronounces and their effects, are determined by the Constitution and fixed by other texts.
The composition of the Constitutional Council is ruled by the 1st paragraph of Article 164 of the Constitution. Since the 1996 Constitutional review, it comprises nine members, of whom three are appointed by the President, two elected by the National People’s Assembly, two elected by the Council of the Nation, one elected by the Supreme Court and one elected by the State Council.

In virtue of dispositions in the 3rd and 4th paragraphs of article 164, the president of the Constitutional Council is appointed for a six-year term. The other members of the Council have a six-year mandate, one half of which are replaced very three years.

Regarding the seizing authorities, article 166 of the Constitution stipulates that the Constitutional Council is seized by the President of the Republic, the President of the National People’s Assembly or the Council of the Nation.

In addition to its duties in terms of control of constitutionality, the Council sees to the regularity of referendums, election of the President of the Republic and legislative elections, and proclaims the results of these operations.

3.   JUDICIAL POWER

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court regulates the activities of courts and tribunals, and the Sate Council regulates the administrative judiciary. The Supreme Court is presided over by the President of the Republic and the Minister of Justice is Vice-President of the Court. All magistrates are answerable to the Higher Court for the manner in which they fulfil their functions.

The State Council

The organic law of the 30th of May 1998 endows the State Council with a classical judiciary competence and an original consultative competence.

  • As a JUDICIARY BODY:

It is judge of the cancellation of all administrative, regulative, or individual decisions by central administrative authorities, public national institutions, and national professional organisations (article 9-1)

It receives appeals introduced before the administrative tribunals and relating to the cancellation of acts taken by administrative authorities other than “central” (Walis, President of APC,…)

It acts as appeal judge of all rulings passed by tribunals in substantive.

It receives appeals against decisions of administrative jurisdictions passed in last resort, as well as appeals of rulings from the Court of Accounts (Art 11).

Finally, it may be called upon to judge appeals relating to the appreciation or interpretation of the legality of acts of which the contentious is ascribable to the State Council.

The State Council is organised, for the exercise of its function, in four chambers, each of which is subdivided into different sections. The conduct of the instruction is particular, since the procedure is written and secret, explaining the monotony of its public audiences sometimes dominated by exchanges of documents and rare pleadings.

  • As a CONSULTATIVE BODY:

(Article 12 and 35) It is seized by the government to give its opinion on bills which are submitted to it, and proposes all the modifications that it believes necessary. The texts are then debated during meetings of the Council of Ministers prior to their presentation before the two Chambers for adoption.

The State Council deliberates consultative matters during general assemblies and permanent commissions when, by way of exception, emergency is signalled by the Head of State.The general assembly is presided over by the president of the State Council. It is composed of the vice-president, the Commissioner of State, the presidents of Chambers, and five State advisors (Art 37). Ministers can take part in the sessions or be represented by officials.

The Permanent Commission is composed of a president with a rank of chamber president and at least four advisors. The State Commissioner may take part in deliberations and gives his conclusion. A minister may also be present at the sessions or be represented in order to submit an opinion.

The State Council aims essentially at verifying the absolute regularity of the text of law and its coherence, as well as proposing modifications necessary for its harmony.

4.   OTHER

The High Islamic Council

The High Islamic Council is an advisory body on matters relating to Islam. The Council comprises 15 members and its President is appointed by the President of the Republic. Prof. Abdelmadjid Meziane is the current President of the Council.

The High Security Council

The High Security Council is, theoretically, a consultative organisation enshrined in the Algerian constitution of 1989. Comprising 7 members (including the army’s chief of command), it takes care, as its name implies, of national and international security questions. It was this Council which declared in January 1992 « the impossibility of pursuing the electoral process » and created the HCE. The HCS has been chaired, since the constitutional review of November 1996, by the Algerian President.

*   INSTITUTIONS OF THE TRANSITION PERIOD (1992-1996)

The High State Committee

The High Committee of State (Haut Comité d’Etat – HCE) was the collegial presidency established following the military coup of January 1992, which interrupted the electoral process before the second round of parliamentary elections which were about to provide the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) with victory. After dissolving the FIS, the HCE initiated a permanent state of emergency, created « special » jurisdictions in the framework of its fight against « terrorism and subversion » and subjected the press to censorship. In January 1994, it organised a « national consensus conference » to prepare the reinstatement of the democratic process. This conference was boycotted by the country’s main political parties (the FFS, the RCD, those FIS leaders supporting dialogue who were still free). The HCE disappeared after this conference.
National Transition Council

The National Transitional Council (Conseil National de Transition – CNT) is a non-elected legislative institution created during the « national consensus conference. » It took over from the National Consultative Council which was set up in April 1992 to replace the dissolved National Assembly. It comprised 180 seats divided up according to a quota system between the government, trade unions, professional, social and cultural associations and political parties. Only groups close to the government in power took part in the Transition Council. The CNT was dissolved in May 1997.

National Economic and Social Council

The National Economic and Social Council of Algeria was created by a presidential decree n° n° 93-225 du 19 Rabie Ethani 1414, od October 5th, 1993.

This council is an advisory body. Its stake is to initiate dialogue between social and economic partners. Besides, the Council has to assess the degree of economic and cultural development of Algeria.

In 2007, The National Economic and Social Council wanted to update itself by extending its jurisdiction to human development, poverty, free trade and governance in order to enhance its role as advisor to public policy.