Sometimes it's hard to tell the power of religion from mere opposition to secular dictatorship. Were the people wanting to turn Algeria into a theocracy, in the Dec. 26 election? Or just to register disgust with the National Liberation Front, which has ruled since independence in 1962 with increasing corruption and ineptitude?
In any case, President Chadli Benjedid, who gradually conceded democratic forms after 1988 riots, will carry on until 1993, when an election is scheduled. But the parliament will be dominated by the Islamic Salvation Front, which won a stunning victory in the first round of parliamentary voting last week as it had previously in local elections. The coexistence of president and parliament is hard to imagine, though both swear to make it work. As long as the army supports him and the FLN, Mr. Chadli is supreme. The army put on a large display of its presence Sunday and Monday.
With run-off elections due Jan. 16, there is still a chance to deny the Islamic party the two-thirds parliamentary seats needed to amend the constitution. The Socialist Forces Front, a secular opposition group, is appealing to the five million Algerians who did not vote Dec. 26 to do so to stop a theocracy. The Socialists came in a distant second the first round, actually ahead of the ruling party.