The government increased the budget, to distribute more money, especially to employees in the security apparatus and general public sector, to secure stability in the organisational structure of the country. One of the most important things for an authoritarian regime is a strong and loyal coercive apparatus1. Naturally, the military needs to be well equipped, and have enough resources to fight in a possibly war against the citizens. But it’s also important that the military is willing to fight and is loyal to the authoritarian regime. The Algerian government had the support of the military because the ruling party, FLN, had had close ties with the military since the independence war against France, and the following coup by the FLN.
2 The Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika also fought in the army in the independence war, so the military as an institution was supportive of the authoritarian regime. In order to keep the police just as supportive as the military, the Bouteflika regime increased the salary for police officers with 50 %, when the riots began in Tunisia (December 2010). In that way, they felt that the police forces would be in favour of the regime, when the uprisings soon began.3 12 months after this, they also increased the military personnel’s salaries with 40 %. With a powerful and loyal coercive apparatus, the Algerian government was robust for a wave of riots, that they had already seen some early examples of in December 2010. The support from the strong military was clearly seen the 12th of February, where 3.000 protestors gathered at the May First Square in Algiers.
It was supposed to have the same effect as the huge Assembly on the Tahrir Square in Cairo, but the 30.000 police officers shut it down. Riot police blocked would-be protesters from neighboring suburbs and other towns from reaching the center of the capital to participate in the demonstration in May First Square.4 Thereby, the repression was very effective. According to “Islamic Activism and Social Movement Theory”, repression by the government, can both have a negative and positive outcome, depending on how it is done, and the level in which it is done5. The two most important factors are timing and targeting. In the case with the May First Square demonstration, the Algerian security forces fulfilled both of the criteria for successful repression.
The repression from the police was pre-emptive because it was “applied before the opposition movement has had an opportunity to organise and mobilize disparate supporters and sympathizers around a common goal”6. Therefore, the 3.000 citizens that were at the protest on the square didn’t have the same impact as the demonstrators had in Egypt. Apart from outnumbering the demonstrators, the security forces were also extremely efficient at shutting down demonstrations without shooting at the masses like they did in the 1988 revolution7. When it comes to targeting, there were no key figure or persona in charge of the opposition movement, whom they should have arrested or removed instantly.
Therefore, the security forces fulfilled their job by not targeting random citizens. If they would have shot randomly at the demonstrators, it would have been indiscriminate repression, which only generates hate and distrust in the country. By showing surplus in the situation, and dealing with the riots in a very professional manner, the military gains respect among the people. The respect for the security forces then reflects on the authoritarian government, who gains support from the people. A good example of how the government is struggling when the police forces shoot innocent people, is seen in the United States, where black communities have organised and protested against the system because of the police killings of unarmed black citizens. In that way, the salary raises Bouteflika gave to the police forces, and later the military, were money well paid out, since it shut down the opposition movements before it became powerful.
1 J.N.C. Hills, “Linkage, leverage and organisational power: Algeria and the Maghreb Spring.” Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft 10, no. 1(October 2015): 1252 Angrist, Politics & Society in the contemporary Middle East, 1903 Frédéric Volpi, “Algeria versus the Arab spring”. Journal of democracy. 24, no.
3 (July 2013): 111. 4 Volpi, “Algeria”, 1085 Quintan Wiktorowicz (ed.), Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004). 67-71 https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ez.statsbiblioteket.dk:12048/lib/asb/reader.action?docID=238838=14 6 Wiktorowicz, Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach, 68.7 Volpi, “Algeria”, 111