Corruption in present-day Algeria has become so rife that it has gone from what Algerians once sardonically termed the ‘sport of the elite’ to being the ‘national sport’. Not only has it reached epidemic proportions at all levels, it has become a culture unto itself, endemic to the country. Because most documented instances of major corruption and scandals have been linked to official branches, apparatuses and persons of the state, and because most have occurred and would not have been possible without some sort of official sanction, corruption in Algeria is ipso facto political. The mechanisms and networks of corruption are many and interlocking, revolving around and feeding on bribery, clientelism, tribalism, nepotism, webs of personal interest and loyalties. The crisis is multifaceted with international dimensions as well, given the collusion of multinational corporations and the intersection of power and vast revenues deriving from oil rent that has also permitted, through an overinflated and ineffectual state bureaucracy, a fertile environment for the pernicious phenomenon. Privatization; the opening of Algerian markets to direct foreign investment and liberalization of trade in response to structural reforms demanded by international monetary institutions during the 1990s; what was effectively a vicious and disastrous civil war in the wake of the suspension of the 1992 elections; as well as globalization have all factored in reinforcing old forms of corruption and promoting new ones. Elite coteries, crony capitalism, and a new generation of ambitious intermediaries and young opportunistic entrepreneurs, such as Rafiq ‘Abd al-Mu'min Khalifa (convicted head of the al-Khalifa Group), have become the new players in billion-dollar schemes of graft, theft and embezzlement of unprecedented proportions. Furthermore, court cases and judicial proceedings have often taken on the aspect of farce when arrests are made and charges brought against minor officials, leaving those higher-up and known to have been party to illicit activities and dealings above the law in the realm of the ‘untouchables’. Significantly, the road to reform, which must necessarily be political in the first instance, is fraught with obstacles, not the least of which is that favouritism is institutionalized in the letter of Algerian law. With good reason, Algerians in general have become highly circumspect with candidates and an electoral process that are open to every tactic of manipulation. This article provides valuable insider information into the specifics and mechanics of Algerian corruption, which even the ruling elite has been obliged to admit constitutes the primary threat to the stability and continuity of the state. The research and distillation of conclusions in this article are drawn from the full-length Arabic-language book by Muḥammad Ḥalīm Līmām entitled Ẓāhirat al-Fasād al-Siyāsī fī al-Jazāʾir: al-Asbāb wa al-Āthār wa al-Iṣlāḥ. Beirut: Center for Arab Unity Studies (CAUS), 2011.

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