| 22 February 2024, Thursday |

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

The results of an Algerian parliamentary election in which less than a third of eligible voters voted will be announced in a few days, according to the head of the voting authority.

With Algeria facing an impending economic crisis, the ruling elite has attempted to end two years of political upheaval by holding elections and cracking down on opposition.

The “Hirak” mass protest movement’s supporters claimed it demonstrated the system’s lack of legitimacy. Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi, two famous journalists, as well as opposition activist Karim Tabbou, were detained last week but released on Saturday.

Politicians said the turnout of 30.2%, the lowest ever officially recorded for a parliamentary election in Algeria, was “acceptable”.

“The election took place in good conditions. Voters were able to vote and choose the most suitable candidates to serve Algeria,” said election authority head Mohamed Chorfi on television.

The protests erupted in 2019 and unseated veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, continuing weekly until the global pandemic struck a year later. After a year-long pause they resumed in February but police mostly quashed them last month.

Many Algerians believe real power rests with the military and security establishments who have dominated politics for decades, rather than with elected politicians.

“We have grown accustomed in the past to high turnout due to fraud,” said Arslan Chikhaoui, an Algerian analyst, saying the authorities had manipulated the results of elections before the Hirak protests to suggest greater enthusiasm.

After Bouteflika was forced to step down, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected with a turnout of 40%. Last year he held a referendum on an amended constitution that gained only 25% of votes.

The old parties that traditionally dominated have been tarred with corruption and abuse scandals, giving space to independents and moderate Islamist parties that hope to gain a majority of seats in the new parliament.

Those that win a lot of seats are likely to be included in the next government.

During parliament’s coming five-year term, Algeria is likely to face a fiscal and economic crunch, after burning through four fifths of foreign currency reserves since 2013.

The government has maintained expensive social programmes and the state’s central role in the economy despite plummeting oil and gas sales.

Reforms to strengthen the private sector contributed to corruption that fueled the Hirak. Spending cuts could trigger a new wave of protests against the ruling establishment.

Laws passed by the outgoing parliament to encourage foreign and private investment and strengthen the energy sector have so far had little effect.

  • Reuters