Although Algeria's ruling elite appears to have a firm grip on power, strikes, protests and riots in early 2011 prompted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to offer a series of concessions.
In February 2011, the 19-year state of emergency was lifted. Two months later, the president promised to amend the constitution to "strengthen democracy". And in September 2011, he permitted private radio and television stations. The government also launched a spending programme to reduce the high unemployment rate and diversify the economy.
In May 2012, Mr Bouteflika's National Liberation Front (FLN) won parliamentary elections for which 23 new political parties were allowed to be established. Though hailed as Algeria's most free and fair poll in years, it was marred by widespread apathy.
In April 2013, the president suffered a stroke and spent three months in France receiving treatment. Since returning in July, he has stayed largely out of the public eye. Despite this, he carried out a major cabinet reshuffle in September, and two months later the FLN announced that it had nominated the 76-year-old to stand for a fourth term in office in 2014.
Where are we now?
Mr Bouteflika, who has been in power for 14 years, is said to want to push through constitutional reforms before the election to create a "civil society" and limit the political influence of the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS).