Algeria votes for new parliament, but activists plan to boycott Algeria Algiers Abdelmadjid Tebboune Abdelaziz Bouteflika

The Algerians will vote on Saturday for a new parliament that will meet the demands of the pro-democratic demonstrators and open a new paper for the restless, albeit gas-rich country – which many activists want to boycott.

The authorities have tightened the screws on the Hirak protest movement in recent weeks, and the police arrested a politician and journalist who are prominent opposition figures ahead of the election.

The early elections are intended to be an example of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s “new Algeria”, with a focus on young candidates and candidates outside the political elite. Large numbers of candidates – more than 20,000 – run for the 407-seat legislature, more than half as independents and the rest on party lists.

It is the first parliamentary election since former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was ousted from office in 2019 after 20 years in power due to protests against corruption, unemployment and repression.

However, boycott threats, concerns about the coronavirus and general frustration with the political system mean that Saturday voter turnout could potentially be low.

For the first time, women make up half of the candidates in the effort to make a fresh start. But women were largely invisible from the campaign – and in some cases their faces were blurred or hidden on election posters, according to the El Watan newspaper.

The candidates only had 20 days to campaign and Algerian media said that a real debate on major issues such as unemployment had largely failed to materialize.

“With so many candidates, the power calculation is simple: elect a patchwork general assembly without a majority, which enables the president to create his own parliamentary majority with which he will govern,” said political scientist Rachid Grime.

A new electoral authority has been formed to conduct the vote, and their boss said the results could take up to 10 days, given the large number of candidates and the new system.

Many candidates could not afford election posters. Independent candidates like Djamel Maafa, a former television producer, used social networks to get his message across because they had no access to funds and logistical structures from large parties.

Parties that support the Hirak movement called for a boycott because they want a more fundamental political transition.

“The Algerian elections have always shown that they are not the solution. The solution lies in the democratic transition, it also lies in a dialogue around a table in order to solve the crisis, ”said activist Sofiane Haddadji.

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