Houari Boumediene : biography
Houari Boumedienne () (also known as Mohammed Ben Brahim Boukharouba; 23 August 193227 December 1978) served as Algeria’s Chairman of the Revolutionary Council from 19 June 1965 until 12 December 1976, and from then on as the second President of Algeria to his death on 27 December 1978. , on website of the Presidency of the Republic of Algeria, biography from rulers.org
In 1961, after its vote of self-determination, Algerians declared independence and the French announced it was independent. Boumedienne headed a powerful military faction within the government, and was made defence minister by the Algerian leader Ahmed Ben Bella, whose ascent to power he had assisted as chief of staff. He grew increasingly distrustful of Ben Bella’s erratic style of government and ideological puritanism, and in June 1965, Boumédienne seized power in a bloodless coup.
The country’s constitution and political institutions were abolished, and he ruled through a Revolutionary Council of his own mostly military supporters. Many of them had been his companions during the war years, when he was based around the Moroccan border town of Oujda, which caused analysts to speak of the "Oujda Group". (One prominent member of this circle was Boumédienne’s long-time foreign minister, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who, since 1999, has been Algeria’s president.)
Initially, he was seen as potentially a weak ruler, with no significant power base except inside the army, and it was not known to what extent he controlled the officer corps. But after a botched coup against him by military officers in 1967 he tightened his rule. He then remained Algeria’s undisputed ruler until his death in 1978, as all potential rivals within the regime were gradually purged or relegated to symbolic posts, including several of his former allies from the Oujda era. No significant internal challenges emerged from inside the regime after the 1967 coup attempt.
Economically, Boumédienne turned away from Ben Bella’s focus on rural Algeria and experiments in socialist cooperative businesses (l’autogestion). Instead, he opted for a more systematic and planified programme of state-driven industrialization. Algeria had virtually no advanced production at the time, but in 1971 Boumédienne nationalized the Algerian oil industry, increasing government revenue tremendously (and sparking intense protest from the French government). He then put the soaring oil and gas resources—enhanced by the oil price shock of 1973—into building heavy industry, hoping to make his country the Maghreb’s industrial centre. His years in power were in fact marked by a reliable and consistent economic growth, but after his death in the 1980s, the drop in oil prices and increasingly evident inefficiency of the country’s state-run industries, prompted a change in policy towards gradual economical liberalization.
In the 1970s, along with the expansion of state industry and oil nationalization, Boumédienne declared a series of socialist revolutions, and strengthened the leftist aspect of his regime. A side-effect of this was the rapprochement with the hitherto suppressed remnants of the Algerian Communist Party (the PAGS), whose members were now co-opted into the regime, where it gained some limited intellectual influence, although without formal legalization of their party. Algeria formally remained a single-party state under the FLN, but Boumédienne’s personal rule had marginalized the ex-liberation movement, and little attention was paid to the affairs of the FLN in everyday affairs.
Pluralism and opposition were not tolerated in Boumédienne’s Algeria, which was characterized by government censorship and rampant police surveillance by the powerful Sécurité militaire, or Military Security. Political stability reigned, however, as attempts at challenging the state were generally nipped in the bud. As chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Boumediene and his associates ruled by decree. During the 1970s, constitutional rule was gradually reinstated and civilian political institutions were restored and reorganized. Efforts were made to revive activity within the FLN, and state institutions were reestablished systematically, starting with local assemblies and moving up through regional assemblies to the national level, with the election of a parliament. The process culminated with the adoption of a constitution (1976) that laid down Algeria’s political structure. This was preceded by a period of relatively open debate on the merits of the government-backed proposal, although the constitution itself was then adopted in a state-controlled referendum with no major changes. The constitution reintroduced the office of president, which Boumedienne entered after a single-candidate referendum in 1978.