Algeria Set for Violent Equilibrium

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PARIS: Despite the holding of local elections designed to help restore some sort of normalcy to Algeria, TIME Middle East Bureau Chief Scott MacLeod reports that the bloody balance of power betweem the military government and the Islamic opposition is likely to persist, leaving the increasingly bloody 5-year-old civil war unresolved.

"There has been an intense power struggle in the government, between hard-liners who believe they can wipe out the Islamic opposition by military means, and moderates who believe that the underlying problem is political, and requires a political solution," MacLeod reports. "It's been suggested, although not proven, that hard-liners in the military are either allowing, or encouraging the massacres as a way of undermining government moderates who are allegedly pursuing secret negotiations with the Islamists.

"Part of the problem is that the division in the regime is mirrored on the Islamist side, and the hard-liners on both sides share an interest in stopping any negotiations," he adds.

Having spent the week in Algeria, MacLeod believes that despite the violence the government is stable, and that moderate Islamists are prepared to negotiate on the basis that the military will stay in power for some time. More difficult will be to prove to military hard-liners that the Islamists cannot be eliminated by force. Which means that Algerians may yet have to suffer years of savagery before hard-liners on both sides are either marginalized or accept that there is no alternative to coexistence.