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Vote on Charter Increasing Role Of Islam

January 17, 1986

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ Algerians voted Thursday on a new National Charter that would change the nation’s fundamental policy from rigid socialism to a pragmatic Islamic society.

More than 90 percent approval was expected in the one-party nation, except in the Kabylie mountains, where Berbers resent the dominance of Arab culture. The new charter makes references to the Berber role in Algeria’s pre-Arab history, but does not mention them by name.

The current charter, created in 1976 under the late President Houari Boumedienne, is the nation’s ideological basis. Algeria’s constitution devolves from it and all laws must be clearly inspired by its ideology.

President Chadli Bendjedid has led the long debate in the National Liberation Front party to modify the document, balancing factions ranging from Islamic fundamentalists to hard-line Marxists.

Adoption of the changes would allow him to propose legislation to modernize the economy and open it to private enterprise as Algeria looks towards a future less geared to the export of oil and natural gas.

The new charter would see private enterprise as ″complementary″ with state organizations, while under Boumedienne, it was ″incompatible with ... development and national independence.″

Bowing to the party’s leftists, however, Bendjedid has made clear that state-owned enterprise will continue to dominate the economy, while insisting it be more efficient.

The new charter also seeks to stem the rise of Islamic fundamentalism by increasing the role of moderate Sunni religious leaders and laymen.

It designates mosques as centers of national life and calls on the clergy to play a bigger role in social problems such as population, waste and absenteeism.

Many younger Algerian leaders come from the countryside, and their deep Islamic roots are reflected in the new charter’s increased emphasis on Islam.

Algeria’s population has grown to 23 million from 17 million in 1976, with 75 percent of the people born after independence from France in 1962. A birth control campaign, based in the religious community, began a year ago, with parents urged to have children less frequently.

The new charter also is more pragmatic toward foreign policy. It replaces references to ideological ties to the Third World and the East bloc with passages on Non-Alignment, cooperation with Arab and developing nations, and stresses the transfer of technology from developed nations.

It maintains strong support for liberation movements, however, particularly of Palestinians and South Africans.

Unity in the Arab world can be favored, the charter says, ″despite the differences of political regimes ... thanks to joint projects in all fields.″

The new charter also drops the 1976 reference to the need for ″profound changes″ in neighboring states, a reference to the Moroccan monarchy.

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