The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria is an Islamic, Arab and Amazigh (Berber) country. After a long history of colonisation by France, the Algerian people were dissatisfied with the way the French treated them on their own land. After the independence (1962), a violent civil war emerged, which was the result of an undemocratic interference of the military. In the civil war there were many casualties, but current President Bouteflika gave an amnesty to the guerrilla fighters. The violence has declined from that point on and Algeria can now start to work on a constructive way to democratisation.
In the beginning of 2011, widespread protests broke out over the sudden increase in staple food prices. The government lowered the food prices, but the Arab spring in neighbouring countries inspired labour unions, opposition parties and religious groups to organise large-scale protests across the entire country. In late February, Bouteflika’s government lifted the 19-year state of emergency in response to the protests. As a response to the unrest the authorities promised to make the 2012 parliamentary elections a next step on the road towards real democracy. But while officials billed the elections as 'an Algerian spring' they were mainly marked by a low turnout.
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- 39,666,519 million (World Bank 2015 est.)
- Governmental Type:
- Ruling Coalition:
- National Liberation Front (FLN), National Rally for Democracy (RND)
- Last Elections:
- 17 April 2014 (presidential elections)
- Next Elections:
- 4 May 2017 (parliamentary elections)
- Sister Parties:
The head of the executive branch of Algeria is an elected president for a term of five years. Candidates can be nominated in two ways; either by 600 elected officials or by a popular petition of at least 75.000 registered voters. The prime minister, who is appointed by the president, appoints the members of the cabinet.
On 11 September 1998, President Zeroual announced he would stand down and early presidential elections would be called. He did this to facilitate a transfer back to normal elections for the office, for he was once appointed in 1992 as President to achieve this goal. On 15 April 1999 the elections were held. After the withdrawal of six candidates, only Abdelaziz Bouteflika (National Rally for Democracy, RND) remained. The other candidates withdrew because they were afraid of massive fraud in favour of Bouteflika. Early in April they demanded that results from mobile and other special polling stations should not be counted, as they suspected government departments of swelling their number to make rigging easier. At the end Bouteflika won the elections with 73.79 percent.
The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria has a bicameral parliament, which consists of the National People’s Assembly and the National Council.
The National People’s Assembly
The National People's Assembly (the lower house) consists of 462 members who are elected with the universal, direct suffrage according to the proportional representation system. Eight of these seats are reserved for Algerians living abroad. The term of legislature is five years. The members of the National People’s Assembly are directly elected in 48 multi-member constituencies - corresponding to country’s wilayas (administrative districts) - with seats allotted according to the population: one seat for every 80,000 inhabitants and one supplementary seat for every fraction of 40,000. No wilaya has less than four seats. Voting is not compulsory. Either the president or one of the parliamentary chambers may initiate legislation.
In December 1991 the first free multiparty general elections for the former National People’s Assembly were held. After the first round it was very clear that the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was going for a victory. The army then cancelled the elections and suspended the constitution. This escalated and was followed by widespread disturbances and numerous arrests of prominent Islamists.
After the escalations had cooled down an advisory body on legislation, the National Consultative Council, was set up in April 1992. It functioned until the National Transitional Council was inaugurated in May 1994 for a three-year transitional period. In March 1997 a new electoral law was adopted and a new date for elections was announced in June 1997. The elections were in a context of mounting violence by armed groups, as well as human rights violations. FIS called for a boycott after being barred from running. The elections took place in the presence of 200 international observers; the turnout was officially 65.6 percent. The National Rally for Democracy (RND), who did not even exist three months earlier, had won 156 out of 380 seats. The MSP-Hamas won 69 seats, the National Liberation Front (FLN) won 64 and the Islamist Party 34. Women represented 3.4 percent of the total number of members of the Assembly. UN observers noted that some voting conditions could not fully guarantee neutrality in the voting process.
The National Council
The National Council (the upper house) was first instituted in 1996 and consists of 144 seats. Wilaya assemblies indirectly elect 96 members of the National Council and 48 are appointed by the president. The term of legislature is six years, of which half of the members are being re-elected or reappointed every three years.
At this moment the elected seats of the National Council mainly go to the RND (about 83.3 percent), FLN (10.4 percent), FFS (Front of Socialist Forces 4.1 percent) and Hamas/HMS/MSP (Movement for a Peaceful Society 2.1 percent). The last election of the National Council took place in December 2003.
The president of the National Council is Adbelkader Bensalah. Women represent 5.5 percent of the total members of the Council. The National Council is a legislative branch and must approve any law approved by the National Assembly with a three-quarters majority.
On 10 May 2012 legislative elections took place in Algeria for the 462 seats in the National People’s Assembly. While officials claimed this election to be the most free elections in 20 years and even promised an “Algerian Spring”, the elections were marked by a low turnout, according to foreign sources.
Under pressure to reform after the 'Arab Spring' in the region, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika approved the establishment of 23 new political parties and an increase in the number of seats in parliament to 462. In addition the authorities installed new party rules that preserve 30 percent of the places on the candidacy lists for women, where the 2007 elected parliament only saw 28 women in parliament, the new policy has led to 145 women gaining seats in parliament, making it the most gender-balanced in the region.
Election results mainly showed an increase in the seats for the two governing parties. While Islamist parties in neighbouring countries were on the rise, the Islamist Green Alliance in Algeria only got 48 seats in parliament, which came in as a surprise according to many observers. The Alliance denounced the outcome and called it fraud, while threatening to take measures, one leader even called for a Tunisian-style revolution as the only option. But Algeria so far bucked the regional trend, largely preserving the political status quo in polls that even saw Islamist parties lose ground, with all seven parties contesting the vote managing only a combined 59 seats.
|Party||Seats in Parliament|
|National Liberation Front||208|
|National Rally for Democracy||68|
|Green Algeria Alliance||49|
|Front of Socialist Forces||27|
|Algerian National Front||9|
|Justice and Development Party||8|
|Algerian Popular Movement||7|
The authorities claimed that this election would manage a process of reform as a counterpoint of the upheavals that were seen in neighbouring countries. Many Algerians, however, see elections as useless because real power, they say, lies with an informal network of elites and is dominated by security forces and they do not expect the ruling elite to truly relinquish their long-held power. In spite of calls to vote "massively" by the country’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflinka, journalists in both the capital and surrounding villages said that only very few people actually went to the polling stations. The Interior Minister however put the turnout at 42.9 percent; Bouteflika called the turnout 'remarkable'. After initially welcoming European Union and African Union observers, Algiers denied the more than 500 observers access to national election lists and warned observers not to be overly critical of the election process.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, hailed the elections. In a statement issued by her spokeswomen she said “these elections - and the high number of women elected - are a welcome step in Algeria’s progress toward democratic reform”. She added that she looked forward to strengthen the ties between both governments.
The most recent presidential elections took place in April 2014. Incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ran and won for a fourth term. He gained over 81 percent of the votes, despite a declining health that prevented him from actively campaigning. Other candidates running in this election were Ali Benfils for the Independents, Louisa Hanoune of the Workers' Party (PT), Moussa Touati of the Algerian National Front (FNA), Abdelaziz Belaid for the Front for the Future Party, and Ali Fawzi Rebaine for Ahd 54.
Algeria's main opposition leaders said before the election that it was a "done deal" set up in Bouteflika's favour.
|Abdelaziz Bouteflika (National Liberation Front)||8,332,598||81.53 %|
|Ali Benfils (Independent)||1,244,918||12,18 %|
|Abdelaziz Belaid (Front for the Future)||343,624||3,36 %|
|Louisa Hanoune (Workers' Party)||140,253||1.37 %|
|Ali Fawzi Rebaine (Ahd 54)||101,046||0.99 %|
|Moussa Touati (Algerian National Front)||57,590||0.56 %|
The results of the presidential election of 2012 were clearly in favour of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who gained more than 80 percent of votes. Nevertheless, authorities put the turnout at just above 51 percent, which is quite low. There were a few incidents, especially in the Berber area of Kabylie. Bouteflika called the election an “eloquent lesson in democracy” shortly after results were announced. He thanked Algerians for the confidence they granted him. At the same time, his main opponent Ali Benfils condemned the election as a "fraud on a massive scale".
The proportion of Algerians who went voting was much smaller this time than in 2009, when around 75 percent of went voting. Many voices rose to denounce the lack of change within Algerian politics and the need for new political figures to step in. Despite all that, some voters underlined that their priority was on stability and peace and the Bouteflika choice thus made sense. Indeed, his first mandates led to a reduction in the civil war conflicts as well as a restoration of economic stability.
Allegations of fraud
Observers and Bouteflika's five low-profile challengers criticized Bouteflika’s victory, according to them there was a lot of fraud. The Interior Minister, however, did not notice any precise and concrete cases which would indicate large scale fraud. People protesting against the results after they were announced, blocked roads with burning tires and clashed with police in the Kabylie province east of Algiers. The opposition Front of Socialist Forces accused the authorities of artificially inflating the turnout. “There was a real tsunami of massive fraud which reached an industrial scale”, the party said in a statement. The RCD, which called for a boycott of the election, said youth tried to storm its Algiers headquarters after the announcement of the results. A party statement said clashes occurred when Bouteflika supporters tried to pull out the black flag the party was waving above its offices in sign of mourning for Algeria's faltering democracy. Said Sadi also said he would take Algerian PM Ahmed Ouyahia to court for defamation. During the election campaign Ouyahia had publicly denounced those calling for an election boycott as traitors to the nation. The opposition leader also accused Bouteflika of violating the country’s law by appropriating the struggle against the colonial French for himself, saying Bouteflika abused the nation’s symbols of heritage. Sadi accused the Algerian president of using liberation war heroes for his campaign posters even though Algerian electoral law prohibits it. He was not very optimistic about his chances of success in an Algerian court, but insisted his legal action did have a more symbolic importance.
The election results matter to the outside world because Algeria, an OPEC member, has the world's 15th largest oil reserves and accounts for 20 percent of the EU's gas imports. Turmoil in Algeria could also lead to a wave of illegal migrants to Europe. Some sections of the population feel disconnected from the political process and analysts say that helps feed Algeria's low-level Islamist insurgency, now affiliated to al-Qaeda.
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Al-Bab Country briefing Algeria
Arab Decision: Political Parties Algeria
BBC Country profile: Algeria
BBC News: 13 July 2001; Algeria opposes UN Western Sahara plan
BBC News: 9 April 2004; Algeria's presidential challengers
CIA: World Fact Book Algeria
CIDCM: Minorities at Risk; Berbers in Algeria
Country studies, Algeria
Election Guide Encyclopaedia Britannica: Foreign relations of Algeria
European Commission: Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Algeria, National Indicative Programme 2005-2006
European Commission: EU’s Relations with Algeria
Freedomhouse: Country report Algeria 2005
Freedomhouse: Country report Algeria 2006
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Human Rights Watch: Algeria
Medea: ALGERIA, Elections and Parliament National People’s Assembly
Presidential Website Algeria
Reporters Without Borders
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Corruption in Algeria
Washington Post: 24 February 2011; Algeria's state of emergency is officially lifted
Wikipedia: 2010–2011 Algerian protests
Wikipedia: Elections in Algeria
Wikipedia: Foreign relations of Algeria
Wikipedia: Legislative elections
Wikipedia: Politics of Algeria