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In November 2020, Algerians approved a new constitution by referendum. One of the changes was to Article 16, to which the sentence in italics was added:

The local authorities of the State shall be the Municipality and the Wilaya.

The Municipality shall be the basic authority.

The law may confer a special system upon some municipalities.

A comparison of the old and new constitutions may be viewed here.

What was the motivation for this particular change? If this was not explained in advance of the constitution being approved, has the Algerian Parliament made, or attempted to make any use of the new power, which might shed light on this?

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I have found it quite difficult to find information about the underlying intentions behind any of the individual changes included in the 2020 Constitution. What I have found are observers speculating about the motivations after the draft for the new Constitution was submitted by the commission of experts appointed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune ("Laraba Commission", named for the group's head, Ahmed Laraba). The International Association of Constitutional Law published an article written by Zaid Al-Ali after the commission produced the draft of the document in May 2020:

The draft proposes to make a small change to the system on decentralisation. Decentralisation in Algeria is mainly administrative. The central state maintains a very significant amount of control over decentralized institutions. The proposed changes state that specific municipalities can have their own "special system" (Article 16). It is not clear exactly what that means but at the very least it appears to open the door to asymmetry. Some commentators have expressed concern about this possibility, on the basis that it could further weaken national unity. On its own, this does not appear to be a major area of concern.

Mr. Al-Ali published the exact same block of text a few weeks later on the website for the The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, but this time underneath the heading "Token decentralisation?".


So it seems at least that the highlighted clause could have been included as a gesture of decentralization, possibly in response to protestors which came to be known as "Hirak". I believe what Al-Ali means when he mentions "asymmetry" is that some municipalities may in fact be rewarded for submission to the central authorities with a special system while others which still protest against the government would not. Nothing I have found so far indicates that Algeria's parliament has passed or debated a law based on this clause.

Curiously, I was able to find this reddit post that links out to a now-defunct website where someone claims that you could have at one point viewed the proposed Constituion along with a file called "the minute" which was claimed to contain all of the motions made along with the corresponding votes. It was made over 2 years ago, so the timeframe fits, but the site is currently inaccessible (at least to me) which is a real bummer since I think that document would be able to either answer your question directly or at least provide a lot more insight into the internal discussions.

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  • I have, by the way, attempted to find a free proxy service that includes an Algerian server to determine if it's only foreign access which is restricted, I have reached out to the author of that reddit comment to see if they still have access to the file indicated or know where it might be found.
    – user5155
    Dec 21, 2022 at 18:26

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