ALGERIA has been a tinderbox of fiery radicalism since the cancellation of a January 1992 election that Islamists were favored to win.
Violence has engulfed the potentially prosperous, oil-rich country. More than 30,000 people have been killed in clashes between Islamic rebels and the military-backed government; terrorism, by both sides, has been incessant. The conflict has spilled into Europe, with France hotly pursuing bombers tied to the most radical Algerian faction, the Armed Islamic Group.
Algeria will attempt to emerge from this chaos in mid-November, when new elections are scheduled. Major political forces have so far opted to boycott this vote. Both the main Islamic party, the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), and the formerly ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), are on the sidelines.
But the 19 declared candidates include both prominent FLN figures, such as ex-Prime Minister Redha Malek, and a sprinkling of moderate Islamists. The current president, Liamine Zeroual, has also declared. He is backed by the widely disliked military, but has shown a bent toward moderation by holding behind-the-scenes talks with jailed FIS leaders.
Algeria's hope is a coalition of moderate forces that can withstand the threats of violent extremists, whether Islamic or military, and reestablish civil government.