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The Front islamique du salut and the denial of legitimacy

By Myles O'Byrne


This work is an investigation into the recent political crisis in Algeria, with a\ud focus on the Islamist party at its heart—the Front islamique du salut. It provides a\ud theoretical and contextual framework by which we can understand the party's\ud emergence and subsequent decline, arguing for greater acceptance of alternative,\ud non-secular politics where there is a clear public appetite for such change. In\ud particular, it emphasises the ways in which the FIS sought to establish a legitimate\ud mandate through a blend of continuity and change. This, I argue, is evident in the\ud party's religio-nationalist modes of expression, which built on yet offered a crucial\ud distinction from the FLN's relationship to nationalism and Islam. It is also evident in\ud the FIS' interaction with the state both during and after the period of its legalisation.\ud My analysis shows how the party evolved towards political maturity and moderation,\ud seeking to engage with rather than subvert the state institutions, albeit from an\ud adversarial position. That this was ultimately unsuccessful is most clearly evident\ud from the military-led campaign to rid Algeria of any real Islamist opposition, despite\ud the legitimacy of the FIS' electoral success. My conclusion that the FIS was denied\ud this legitimacy is based on a reading of contemporary political theory as well as an\ud assessment of political developments on the ground

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