Seven things to know about Algeria’s election

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front and the National Rally for Democracy were widely expected to win against a divided opposition. And they did.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The two parties together enjoy an absolute majority in the parliament.

Polls closed and counting began on Thursday evening in Algeria's parliamentary election. On Friday afternoon, the country’s interior ministry announced that the party of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and its coalition ally had won a clear majority of the seats in parliament.

Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN), which has dominated the North African nation's politics since independence in 1962, won 164 of the 462 seats. Its ally, the Rally for National Democracy (RND), won 97.

Here are the 7 things to know about the election:

Less seats, but still a majority

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s FNL and the RND retained their majority in the 462-seat lower house, albeit with 30 seats less.

The FLN is Algeria’s long-time ruling party. It draws its legitimacy from its key role in the nation’s war of independence against the French.

The RND is led by the president’s chief of staff, Ahmed Ouyahia.

The two parties won a combined total of 291 seats in the 2013 election by playing the stability and security card following the 2011 popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Algeria weathered the 2011 popular protests with massive spending on wages and subsidies that depleted government coffers. (Reuters)

The nation is experiencing unemployment and a deep financial crisis

Recent economic difficulties have seen austerity imposed on the North African country, which is dependent on energy revenues for 60 percent of its budget.

A slump in crude oil prices in 2014 has forced the government to cut spending and raise taxes and mothball many public projects.

Today, one in three young people is unemployed. More than half of Algeria’s population of 40 million is under age 30.

State oil company Sonatrach revenues slumped to $27.5 billion in 2016 from $60 billion in 2014. (Reuters)

Fears of popular disinterest

Officials, who feared a low turnout and public apathy, spent weeks urging people to take part in Thursday’s election. Their fears were well founded as the interior ministry reported that a little more than 38 percent of voters cast their ballots.

This despite Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal's calls for a "massive vote," urging women to wake their husbands early and "drag" them to the polling stations.

"If they resist, hit them with a stick," he told an all-female audience in the eastern city of Setif. The turnout indicates they did not his call.

Many potential voters were believed to have been disillusioned by what they see as broken government promises and a tainted political system.

"Corruption has plagued politics. How can you vote for a candidate who has paid to be selected by a party?" asked Ali, a merchant in the town of Blida, 45 kilometres southwest of Algiers.

He was referring to a scandal which has filled Algerian newspapers of candidates having paid for their names to be added to party lists.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke, voted from a wheelchair at a polling booth in Algiers. (Reuters)

Low turnout is nothing new in Algeria

More than 23 million people were eligible to vote in this election, but small parties have boycotted the vote.

Voter turnout is often low in Algeria’s elections. Only 43 percent of the eligible voters participated in the 2012 election.

Many Algerians argue that they are offered little change in the system, which has been dominated by the National Liberation Front (FLN) since the nation’s independence in 1962.

Apathy widespread among younger voters

Scathing satirical videos on social media revealed that there is a mood of apathy among younger voters.

Many young people say they feel little connection to the rhetoric of their country’s leadership. They argue they have few opportunities.

"For five years we don't see congressmen and we have no right to talk to them. Then they ask for our vote? Why should we? It's wrong," said Idir, a student in downtown Algiers.

Algeria adopted a multi-party system in 1989. (Reuters)

Parliament’s powers limited

The National Assembly has little real influence in the presidential system.

"The president holds all the power," said Nourredine Bekis, a professor of sociology at the University of Algiers.

A package of constitutional reforms was adopted last year to allow the parliament a say in naming the prime minister, but critics see it as nothing more than a rubber stamp.

The future

But with the results known, many who have criticised the system and the current crop of politicians will say that this latest election has done nothing more than offer them more of the same.

TRTWorld and agencies