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Stable since the ‘black decade’ of the 1990s that saw tens of thousands killed, the 70% fall in oil prices since mid-2014 is threatening Algeria’s social contract that has ensured a certain level of stability in recent years. This threat is compounded by unrest in neighboring Tunisia and Libya, and the likely prospect of a change in leadership in coming years amid swirling rumors as to whether ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika really remains in charge even now.
Algeria was long considered an exception to its Arab neighbors, having avoided the contagion of popular uprisings during the Arab Spring that started in 2011. The government responded to local protests through more spending via food and fuel subsidies, salaries increases for public jobs and housing and health assistance, at a time when oil prices were comfortably sitting above $100/B.
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