On 10 May legislative elections took place in Algeria for the 462 seats in the National People’s Assembly. But while officials claim this election to be a next step on the road towards real democracy as the most free elections in 20 years and even promise an “Algerian Spring”, the elections were mainly dominated by a low turnout.
The National Liberation Front took 220 seats and its sister party in government, the National Democratic Rally, took 68 seats. The two parties now have a majority in parliament. The Islamist Green Alliance came in a distant third with only 48 seats. The Alliance has 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 has 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.
Last year's upheavals in the region have created pressure for reform and a renewal of the ageing establishment that has ruled without interruption since independence from France half a century ago. 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 say that only very few people actually went to the polling stations. One foreign reporter who stood for 45 minutes outside a polling station in Bab El Oued, a working class neighbourhood in the capital, said he did not see a single voter enter. At two other polling stations, about 10 percent of those registered to vote had shown up by mid-afternoon. The Interior Minister however puts the turnout at 42.9 percent, and President Bouteflika even 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. Also 230 foreign journalists were permitted to cover the elections.
Sources: The State, Huffington Post, DW, Magharebia, Reuters, AlJazeera, AlArabiya