Algeria May 2017

FLN wins diminished majority on record low turnout in legislative elections

Algeria’s ruling Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) and its allies win a majority in legislative elections on 4 May. Turnout for the vote was 38.2%, down from 43% in 2012, and the lowest turnout for an election since independence in 1962.

Algeria’s ruling Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) won a parliamentary majority in legislative elections on 4 May, however turnout fell to a record low of 38%. The low turnout is the most significant event in the election as it signals a growing disengagement with the democratic system following 60 years of FLN rule. The FLN has lost 25% of the seats it won in 2012, from 221 to 164. Its coalition partner, the Rassemblement National Démocratique (RND), increased its number of seats by 36%, from 68 to 97. Together the two form a 261-seat parliamentary coalition, holding a 56% majority in the 462-seat parliament. The Rassemblement Espoir de l'Algérie (RAE) party, known as TAJ, won 19 seats. TAJ formed as a legislative bloc during the last parliamentary term, and leader Amar Ghoul split from the Mouvement de la Société pour la Paix (MSP) in 2012 to form a non-Islamist ally to the FLN/RND bloc. He has served in several cabinet positions, including as tourism minister until June 2016. The centrist, and pro-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika (1999-present), Front El Moustakbal (FM) went from two to 12 seats. This allows the government to retain unassailable voting power in parliament.

The election was the worst result for the opposition since 1990. The third party was the Islamist MSP, which won 33 seats. The MSP has kept its vote share, but lost bloc partners Nahda and Islah which carried 16 seats in 2012. Neither party carried votes in this election. The secularist Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie (RCD) re-entered parliament with nine seats, having boycotted the 2012 elections, lower than the 19 seats it held in 2007. The other Islamist parties – Ennhada and the Front pour la Justice et le Développement (FJD) – maintained their 15 seats. Other opposition parties lost seats. The leftist Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS) fell from 27 to 14 seats, and the Parti des Travailleurs (PT) dropped from 24 to 11 seats. Unlike in the 2012 legislative elections, there were no calls from major parties to boycott the vote.

“The opposition parties are looking for legitimacy through the voting system; many tried a boycott last election and all it gave them was even less of a voice than in the assembly.” 1

Turnout for the vote was 38.2%, the lowest on record since independence in 1962 and five percent lower than the 43% turnout in 2012. Bouteflika urged voters via a number of messages to participate, and both government and opposition parties campaigned. Bouteflika released a statement on 29 March calling for a “massive” turnout, which he described as vital to “the stability of the country”. Other government officials echoed this, calling posts on social media to boycott the vote “dishonest … a serious attack on the stability of Algeria”. However, voter apathy surrounding the election was high, as most voters polled did not believe that parliament had the power to effect any change in Algeria, with this power vested in the president. The presidency had hoped that changes to the constitution in 2016, which granted greater powers to parliament, might increase confidence.

“The fundamental truth of Algeria democracy is that the country was only asked to vote once, then they were told they voted badly and the army stepped in … there is no trust in democracy here, it is just a show for the international community” 2

The administration has won another comfortable majority in the legislature, but has not been able to shake its problem of legitimacy. According to polls, over 50% of voters under 30 did not believe that the legislature could effect any change in policy. The upcoming presidential elections in 2019 will have a higher turnout than this, but in the next two years political apathy will continue to increase. The aged and ill Bouteflika, who rarely appears in public, rules with little to no accountability and has ensured power is exercised away from public view. The government’s ongoing cuts to subsidies, which have sparked public anger, did not translate into anti-government votes in the legislative elections. When faced with the chance to unseat Bouteflika himself, voters may turn out in larger numbers. However, with the memory of the 1990s still fresh, many believe that they would not be allowed to win. This does not translate into immediate political risk, but does pose a long-term risk if sections of the populace attempt to turn to extra-democratic means to ensure their voices are heard.

1. [Source, journalist, Algiers]

2. [Source, journalist, Algiers]

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