On Thursday, the 10th of May, parliamentary elections will take place in Algeria. The election will see 42 political parties competing for the increased number of 462 seats. The main contest is expected to be between the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), which has effectively held control over the country for over fifty years, and an alliance of three Islamist parties (Green Algeria Alliance). Despite the government’s effort to limit the influence of Islamist parties for years, the Islamists are now expected to take a significant portion of the vote.
Another competitor is Algeria’s oldest opposition party, the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), which in previous elections decided to boycott, but will now also run in the elections. On the contrary, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) is still banned from taking part in the elections. During the country’s first multi-party elections in 1992, that party was about to win the elections when a military coup hindered this from happening. This led to a civil war between security forces and Islamist militants, causing some 200,000 deaths. This time predictions about the response of the military are more optimistic.
Reform and commitment
Although the country has been spared of massive protests similar to those of its neighbouring countries, the government did anticipate on popular calls for reform. In February, the Algerian government announced its decision to lift the country’s 19-year-old Emergency Law; it limited increases on the price of essential commodities; and, it announced parliamentary elections.
The government has promised free and fair elections and invited some 500 international observers, of which for the first time also EU observers will monitor the polls. The question remains whether it will change anything about the reluctance of people to vote. This ‘voter apathy’ is persistent among the people who believe that real power rests in the hands of a military elite. Regular small-scale daily protests over economic issues, such as lack of housing or utilities, have been taking place. Recent polls show that 44 per cent of Algerians say they will vote, meaning a slight increase over the dismal 35 per cent turnout in the 2007 elections. However, campaign posters were vandalized and in some cases painted over with slogans saying "why vote for a parliament without power" and "No to elections with potatoes at 120 dinars ($1.60) a kilogram" this year.
The Associated Press
Source image of Algerian Flag