The "Heroic" Stage: Ben Bella's Regime, 1962-65
With the declaration of independence, Ben Bella assumed the title
of national president. The first postindependence elections were
held for the new National Assembly on September 20, 1962, and
on September 26, the National Assembly officially elected Ben
Bella premier and formally declared the Democratic and Popular
Republic of Algeria. Ben Bella formed his government from the
ranks of the military and close personal and political allies,
indicating that the factional infighting was far from suppressed.
The first and most pressing task of the new government was to
restore some normality to the war-torn economy and polity. The
end of the colonial period, although not entirely eliminating
the French presence in Algeria, had dramatically reduced it. The
mass exodus of Europeans resulted in a severe shortage of highly
skilled workers, technicians, educators, and property-owning entrepreneurs.
The national government quickly assumed ownership of the abandoned
industrial and agricultural properties and began a program of
autogestion (see Glossary), or socialist workers'
management. Workers were responsible for overseeing their own
administration through a series of elected officials. A national
system of directors and agencies was charged with ensuring that
the workers conformed to a national development plan.
A new constitution was drafted that committed the country to
a socialist path, established a strong presidential system, and
protected the hegemonic role of the FLN as the single political
party. Ben Bella assumed control of the FLN executive as general
secretary. In September 1963, Ben Bella was elected president
for a five-year term. As the government increasingly tended toward
a dictatorship, factionalism within the leadership began to resurface.
At its first congress in April 1964, the FLN adopted a draft
statement, the Algiers Charter. The charter outlined the structure
of the state and government and committed Algeria to the autogestion
program envisioned by Ben Bella. The charter also reaffirmed the
significance of the Islamic tradition in Algerian political culture.
Ben Bella was never able to capture the confidence of the Algerian
public or the military. He was popular among the masses more for
his status as a "historic chief of the revolution" than for his
leadership competency. Despite efforts to thwart the rival military
faction by strengthening the leftist groups, Ben Bella was unable
to overcome the political challenge of his defense minister, Colonel
Houari Boumediene, whose alliance had been critical to his installation
as head of government in 1962. On June 19, 1965, Algeria's first
postindependence president was overthrown by Boumediene in a bloodless
Data as of December 1993