While Algeria has not experienced changes as far-reaching as some of its neighbours, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been under pressure to change the constitution and limit presidential terms after protests that began in January 2011.
Strikes, opposition protests and riots prompted concern among the ruling elite in early 2011 that the country may succumb to popular unrest.
Attempts by protesters to march through the capital, Algiers, were broken up by huge numbers of riot police.
The trigger for the unrest appears to have been mainly economic - in particular sharp increases in the price of food.
Mr Bouteflika, who has been president since 1999, promised in April 2011 to amend the constitution to "strengthen democracy". In a long-awaited speech on state TV, he said a constitutional commission would be created to draw up the necessary amendments.
The country's state of emergency was lifted in February 2011 after 19 years, and in September 2011 Mr Bouteflika announced sweeping media reforms which allowed private radio and television stations to exist for the first time in almost four decades.
In May 2012, Mr Bouteflika's National Liberation Front (FLN) won parliamentary elections which had been called Algeria's most free and fair poll in years. A wide range of candidates took part after the president approved the establishment of 23 new political parties.
However, the vote was was marred by widespread apathy, with many Algerians feeling the vote would effect little real change.
Algeria's government has considerable wealth from its oil and gas exports and is trying to tackle social and economic complaints with a huge public spending programme. Recent figures show that although unemployment overall has eased significantly in the past decade to around 10%, among young people it is 21%.
Mr Bouteflika has been president since 1999. He was re-elected for a third term in April 2009 after changing the constitution accordingly, and winning more than 90% of the vote in an election opponents described as "a tsunami of massive fraud".