Since the Algerian military annulled an election in January 1992 that would have brought to power the world''s first democratically elected Islamist government, a civil war has raged in which more than 100,000 Algerians have died. The military takeover polarized the country between the political and military elite and the mass of the population. The elite were perceived as interested only in personal gain and holding on to power, while most Algerians faced intense hardship. But the brutality of the Islamists'' insurgency--including car bombings, the murder of ''immodestly'' dressed women, the assassination of intellectuals, and the wiping out of whole villages--has lost them support. Most Algerians no longer want the Islamic republicanism of the FIS or the millenarianism of the GIA.
Martin Stone provides a brief overview of Algeria since 1830 before focusing on three crucial phases of the postcolonial era--those of Ben Bella, Boumedienne and the reformist Chadli Bendjedid; and the political and economic crisis under the Haut Comité d''État (HCE). He examines the donimant state institutions--the army and the FLN--and the increasingly bitter divisions behind the current conflict, especially the factionalism that has hampered ALgeria''s attempts to realize its great potential. The book also deals with the large Berber minority, relations with France, the economic background, forgien policy, the 1997 elections, and the administration of President Lamine Zeroual.
In conclusion it examines whether the state can reconcile the moderate, convservative Islam of the majority with the minorities on either pole--both Islamic radicals and secularists--and create a political landscape where genuine political pluralism can flourish and extremism be suppressed.