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The victory is almost embarrassing for a power which intended to project the image of a “New Algeria”. The National Liberation Front (FLN) won the legislative elections of June 12 with 105 seats (out of 407) ahead of the heterogeneous movement of “independents” (78 seats) and the Islamists of the Society for Peace Movement (64 seats), announced on Tuesday, June 15, the Authority independent national elections. The fourth position is occupied by the National Democratic Rally (57 seats) which had forged with the FLN the old presidential alliances around ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, forced to resign in April 2019 by the popular mobilization of the Hirak.
The score of the FLN, the former single party on which the Algerian regime was based during the independence of the country in 1962, was enabled by a massive abstention in the June 12 ballot, due to the instructions to boycott the ballot, launched by the opposition and the supporters of the Hirak (anti-system “movement”). The turnout was limited to 23.03%, lower than those recorded during the presidential election of December 2019 (39.88%) or the previous legislative elections of May 2017 (35.37%). This is the lowest turnout ever recorded in the electoral history of independent Algeria.
Bad news for power
Neither the constitutional revision of 1is November 2020, which maintained an ultra-presidential architecture of power, nor the climate surrounding the poll (media lockdown, judicial harassment against opponents) got the better of voters’ disaffection. Even though President Abdelmadjid Tebboune had warned that the turnout did not“Not interested”, such a record abstention is bad news for the Algerian authorities.
Sign of his embarrassment, the official daily The Mujahideen refrains from any triumphalist commentary on the score of the FLN, preferring to focus on “The independents [qui] created a surprise by establishing themselves as the second political force in the country, a first of its kind in Algeria ”. The authorities did not spare their support for these “independents”, going so far as to finance the electoral campaign of candidates under the age of 40 falling into this category. Their presence in the new Assembly is the only novelty of the ballot, on which the official press insists in order to accredit the idea that the institutional scenario for ending the crisis proposed by the government represents a « rupture » with “A past definitively thrown into oblivion”.
The authorities will however have a lot to do to impose this idea of a “new Algeria”. “We are in the status quo, underlines the historian Amar Mohand-Amer, researcher at the Oran Social and Cultural Anthropology Research Center. The ballot gives birth to an Assembly that is not renewed and even weakened by massive abstention. The regime is struggling to mobilize despite an armada of resources put at the service of the candidates and anti-freedoms laws against the opposition. For its part, the Hirak becomes a strong reality of counter-power. ”
Rachid Ouaïssa, professor of political science at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Philipps University in Marburg (Germany), notes for his part that the ballot “Renews the parties discredited for twenty years”. He adds that the election of a large number of independents, who “Do not form a block”, “will weaken Parliament vis-à-vis the executive”.
The Algerian press, some of whose titles retain a biting tone, severely commented on a ballot that failed to mobilize the Algerians. “Paradoxically, an electoral process that is supposed to bring the regime out of its crisis of legitimacy pushes it even deeper into it, ballot after ballot, writes Mustapha Hammouche, daily columnist Freedom Algeria. Despite its desire to provide pledges for change, even rupture, the government is forced to draw from its traditional rentier apparatuses the personnel who must furnish its institutions. “
For his part, Nouri Nesrouche notes in El Watan what “ the boycott of June 12 reduced the electoral “party” to a neighborhood fair, despite Stalinist propaganda and the colossal means employed by the state ”. He adds that the “Potential” mobilization of the Hirak, illustrated by the effectiveness of its calls for boycott, should “To transform into one or more structured political forces”. The Hirak supporters had hitherto avoided organizing themselves in order to expose themselves as little as possible to repression.
Beyond the gap between power and the population revealed by the extent of the abstention, a double divide risks weighing on the political balances of the post-election. The first is due to the almost zero electoral participation – less than 1% – recorded in Kabylia, a historically rebellious region. The second refers to the divorce with Algerians in the diaspora where the participation rate was 4.6%.