Low turnout feared in Algerian general election

Reuters/Louafi Larbi

Algeria’s state-run television showed crowds rushing to vote in as polls opened Thursday’s general election but commentators predict a high abstention rate, perhaps even higher than 2007’s 64 per cent.


Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia boasted "higher than usual" turnout in Algiers, but journalists reported largely deserted polling stations in the capital on Thursday morning with the few voters being mostly elderly.

Algeria’s election in figures:

  • More than 21.5 million are entitled to vote;
  • 44 parties are standing, 21 of them newly created;
  • The enlarged parliament will have 462 seats;
  • 500 international observers are present;
  • Unemployment is officially 10 per cent but estimated to be twice as high.

The ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) is facing the main legal Islamist party, the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), which has been in the ruling coalition, and the longstanding opposition Socialist Forces Front (FFS), which ended a 15-year boycott of elections this year.

Other groups are calling for a boycott.

Although there were riots when revolt broke out in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime survived the Arab Spring, while introducing limited reforms and raising wages.

The outgoing government was made up of the FLN, which was once the only legal party, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia’s National Rally for Democracy and the MSP.

The MSP had 15 per cent of seats in parliament and hopes to increase its representation as have its co-thinkers in neighbouring countries.

The campaign has focused on unemployment, hosing and the rising cost of living.

But the real challenge is whether the voters will turn out.

Young people, who make up three-quarters of the 37 million population, expected to abstain en masse due to cynicism about the vote's credibility and distrust of politicians.


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