Analysts at the Carnegie Middle East Center agree on the conclusion of their analysis of the transition of Algerian power in 2019 and the end of the Abdelaziz Bouteflika era. Bouteflika is failing to keep the military establishment in check in the same way as his predecessor did at the end of the devastating 'Black Decade'.
"Since General Ahmad Gaid Salah violated the constitution and transferred intelligence services to the armed forces, Tebboune does not have the resources to put pressure on the military leadership," summarises analyst Belkacem Elguetta for the Carnegie Middle East Center.
According to Elguetta, prior to Tebboune's rise to power, intelligence dossiers implicating senior members of the armed forces in the worst episodes of the Algerian civil war were used against the military by the political establishment. These methods of pressure had already expired and could no longer be used by the Algerian presidency.
In Algeria, the army would still be the first and foremost power, ahead of the political one, according to Carnegie analysts. Algeria's independence from France, an achievement achieved by force of arms, would still give the armed forces credibility and legitimacy today.
According to the Arab Index Survey, carried out by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, the Algerian armed forces enjoy a positive level of trust among the population, which grew in the years of Bouteflika's decline. Whereas in 2011, 61 per cent of respondents said they trusted the Algerian National People's Army (ENPA), the same response was supported by 87 per cent in the 2019/2020 survey. It is the most highly rated state institution.
Media outlets such as Al-arab exemplify the return to power of the armed forces with the new public holiday in Algeria, dedicated to the recognition of armies. Since January 2022, 4 August has become the date dedicated to this purpose, by Tebboune's decree, although local sources point to the military as the real instigator of this change.
During the new holiday, Chief of Defence Staff Said Chengriha took the opportunity to give a speech extolling the unity and cohesion between the ENPA and the Algerian people. He used the aforementioned narrative of revolutionary legitimacy that connects the struggle for Algerian independence with the armed forces, and thus the raison d'être of Algeria itself with its armies.
According to Belkacem Elguetta, the military would now maintain a strong influence on Algeria's foreign policy, one of the reasons that could justify the country's growing arms race with Morocco, or the undiplomatic turns it has taken with Spain in April. Through military tension in its neighbourhood, the military would thus be able to maintain more control over Algerian politics. "The military will increasingly impose its views on the direction of Algerian foreign policy, such as maintaining strategic hostility towards Morocco, diplomatic involvement in sub-Saharan African conflicts, maintaining the status quo in the relationship with France, and pushing for greater dependence on Russia as a strategic ally under the pretext of Moroccan-Israeli normalisation," Elguetta writes in his analysis.
The power wielded by Algeria's military leadership is seen by experts in Maghreb analysis as one of the biggest obstacles to Algeria's transition to a democratic model and its emergence from the vortex of internal economic crises that are often accompanied by corruption. In such a large country, where borders are sometimes porous, the state has problems reaching all the southern areas of the country, which are in the hands of the military governments.
According to Belkacem Elguetta, these military governors have managed to set up a system of parallel financing in border areas where the Ministry of the Interior and the presidency have little power, in order to profit from smuggling and petty crime.
With these prospects, there is little to suggest that the post-Bouteflika restructuring of Algeria's power will move towards a better horizon than the one his society is fleeing.