31/07/2021

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Algeria: Mixed expectations for legislative elections

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Expectations are mixed ahead of legislative elections in Algeria.

While independent candidates see an opportunity for more young people and women to take seat in parliament, members of a pro-democracy movement called for a boycott of the electoral process.

1,483 candidate lists, with 646 representing political parties and 837 independents, hope to win one of the 407 seats in the Algerian parliament in the elections on Saturday.

The voting comes earlier than planned, after the president dissolved parliament in February.

Parity between female and male candidates is among the new rules governing the elections.

“The new election law gives more chance to the youth who represent almost half of the candidates,” said independent Khadidja Laatar.

The legislative elections are taking place under a new system meant to weed out corruption and open voter rolls, a major step in President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s promise of a “new Algeria.”

But a crackdown on the pro-democracy Hirak movement, with hundreds arrested around Algeria during recent protests, have cast a pall over presidential efforts to give a new face to a nation whose army plays a backseat role in governance.

Hirak supporters, including parties from the so-called “democratic movement,” have vowed to boycott the first legislative voting since former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced from office in April 2019 after 20 years in power.

It was pressure from marchers of the movement, beginning in February 2019, and from the army chief at the time that decided Bouteflika’s fate.

“Elections in Algeria have always proved that they are not the solution. The solution lies in the democratic transition, it also lies in a dialogue around a table in order to solve the crisis,” said Sofiane Haddadji, an activist from the Hirak movement who was detained for participating in a protest in May and later released.

While in the streets opinions about voting or not on Saturday are divided, for political analysts, Algerians have lost faith in electoral processes.

“It turns out that Algerians have confirmed that for them, elections have never been a solution,” said Nacer Djabi, a sociologist and political scientist.

Two local Algiers residents had contrasting views.

Mohammed Badaoui said he will vote as the candidates who “will bring change to the country”.

“Previous ones were more focused on their personal affairs and they forgot about people,” he added.

Abed Elhak, however, said he didn’t have his voting card and even if he did, he wouldn’t vote.

While there is an unprecedented number of candidates for the June 12 vote – nearly 1,500 lists for the North African nation’s 58 regions with hundreds of others weeded out by the Independent National Elections Authority – how many people will go to the polls remains a mystery.