Weeks of widespread and consistent anti-election protests in Algeria portend a low turnout in the elections taking place today.
Over 24 million Algerians are eligible to take part in the presidential elections today. These elections were announced by the interim head of state, Abdelkader Bensalah just under two months ago. Since then, anti-elections protests have raged in the country week in week out.
The popular protest movement, known as “Hirak”, is opposing the elections, which it sees as a continuation of the authoritarian political status quo in Algeria. Since the forced resignation of former President Abduleziz Bouteflika, which came as a result of continuous demonstrations that had been launched in February, the protest movement has sought to install a civil government that represents the people’s interests.
The takeover of the transition government by the military elite and the nomination of candidates who all held positions in governments under Bouteflika have reinforced the protest movement’s opposition to the elections. The five candidates set to take part are Ali Benflis, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Azzedine Mihoubi , Abdelkader Bengrine and Abdelaziz Belaid. This group includes two former prime ministers, a former Minister of Tourism, a former Minister of Culture and the head of El Moustakbel Front, who was previously a member of the National Front for Liberation (FLN), the party that has dominated Algerian politics since independence from France.
“I reject such elections. This is my country and I will not give it away through such elections to a gang”, stated a young man in Algiers.
The level of opposition to the elections, which is not only witnessed within Algeria, but also in protests organised by eligible Algerian voters living abroad, namely in France, has led to predictions that the turnout is expected to be extremely low. Only a small number of Algerian citizens have expressed support for the elections, mainly from the General Union Of Algerian Workers (UGTA), linked to the FLN. Tribes living in the south of the country are also expected to participate.