In 1969, William B. Quandt wrote the book, Revolution and Political Leadership: Algeria 1954-1968, which is considered by the Council on Foreign Relations publication Foreign Affairs, to be one of the best studies of Algeria and the Algerian War of the time. (Foreign Affairs) William Quandt Ph.D., is a 1968 graduate of the Political Science Program at MIT, served on the National Security Council for the Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter administrations, and he also worked for the Brookings Institute. He was a Professor in the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia until the 2012 fall semester.
In 1998, twenty-nine years after his first book, William B. Quandt published his second book on Algeria, Between Ballots & Bullets: Algeria’s Transition from Authoritarianism. It is a well-structured historical and political study, and social commentary of post-independence Algeria, which transcribes the story of Algeria’s transition from authoritative politics to democratization. The main focus of Between Ballots & Bullets centers on the Parliamentary and Presidential elections in the 1990’s. However, most of the book itself is contextualizing what led up to the defining January 1992 election, and what the defining factors of Algerian society were before the election and afterwards that determines Algeria’s transition from authoritative rule. Quandt explains the actions of the political parties that were formed leading up to the elections, and the subsequent reactions of the regime in power and the military’s heavy hand in deciding the outcomes of the elections with little to no regard of the popular vote. The book goes in depth to explain the election rules and laws that were set up prior to the elections and their massive effect on how the legitimacy of the election was perceived. Quandt also explains the expansive, and surprising social and political discourse that opened in late 1989 due to the protest movement that swept across Algeria in October of 1988. In Between Ballots & Bullets, Quandt describes in detail how after 1989, the opening of the political system from the FLN (Front de Liberation Nationale) one-party domination, led to the formation of fifty political parties within two years which created a volatile political environment that led to serious conflict and violence in Algeria in the 1990’s.
William Quandt’s book serves as a easily readable and well structured short history of modern Algeria and the crisis that enveloped the country throughout the 1990’s. In this political and historical narrative, there is an extensive analysis of the beginning with the first election in Algerian history where parties other than the FLN were able to legally participate, in January of 1992. The pretext for the conflicts of the late 1980’s and 1990’s are sexplained very well in that the historical narrative of the Boumediene and Chadli Eras, especially the economic systems put in place and the political decisions. Quandt presents how these had a significant effect on how and where the key forces around the 1992 election had their origin. The significance of the 1992 election and what transpired after, concerning the violence and how the le pouvior reacted in times of such upheaval is well described by Quandt, in a way that a history student can appreciate without having to be an expert in the field or region.