The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria is an Islamic, Arab and Amazigh (Berber) country. Since the early 19th century Algeria was a French colony. Algeria gained independence after a bloody war between 1954 and 1962. After the independence, Algeria became increasingly more authoritarian. A violent civil war broke out, which was the result of an undemocratic interference of the military. The Civil War (1991-2001) ended when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika introduced an amnesty based peace plan. A tenuous roadmap towards democracy was created under strict state control and emergency law.
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- 39,666,519 million (World Bank 2015 est.)
- Governmental Type:
- Ruling Coalition:
- National Liberation Front (FLN), National Rally for Democracy (RND)
- Last Elections:
- 17 April 2014 (presidential elections)
- Next Elections:
- 4 May 2017 (parliamentary elections)
- Sister Parties:
Since the civil war, Algeria has been on the road towards democracy. The reconciliation plan of Bouteflika stabilized the country. The rebels of the Islamic Salvation Army that fought the government during the civil war were granted amnesty and reintegrated into society. Nonetheless, the political system became more authoritarian. Constitutional changes in 2008 made the president more powerful.
People followed the example of other Arab countries in 2011. Widespread protests broke out over the sudden increase in staple food prices. The government lowered the food prices, but the Arab spring in neighbouring countries inspired labour unions, opposition parties and religious groups to organise large-scale protests across the entire country. In late February, Bouteflika’s government lifted the 19-year state of emergency in response to the protests. As a response to the unrest the authorities promised to make the 2012 parliamentary elections a next step on the road towards more democratisation. But while officials billed the elections as 'an Algerian spring' they were mainly marked by a low turnout. Most Algerians prefer stability over political change. As a result Algeria still lacks fundamental civil liberties, an democratic political culture and political participation.
The head of the executive branch of Algeria is an elected president for a term of five years. Candidates can be nominated in two ways; either by 600 elected officials or by a popular petition of at least 75.000 registered voters. The prime minister, who is appointed by the president, appoints the members of the cabinet. The president was initially bound by two terms, until constitutional amendments changed this in 2008. Sitting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was heavily criticized for this move. In 2016 the limit was reinstated, ending the possibility for Bouteflika to be president for the rest of his life.
On 11 September 1998, President Zeroual announced he would stand down and early presidential elections would be called. He did this to facilitate a transfer back to normal elections for the office, for he was once appointed in 1992 as President to achieve this goal. On 15 April 1999 the elections were held. After the withdrawal of six candidates, only Abdelaziz Bouteflika (National Rally for Democracy, RND) remained. The other candidates withdrew because they were afraid of massive fraud in favour of Bouteflika. Early in April they demanded that results from mobile and other special polling stations should not be counted, as they suspected government departments of swelling their number to make rigging easier. At the end Bouteflika won the elections with 73.79 percent. Bouteflika has won since 1999 every subsequent election, despite him being in poor health since a stroke in 2013.
The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria has a bicameral parliament, which consists of the National People’s Assembly and the National Council.
The National People’s Assembly
The National People's Assembly (the lower house) consists of 462 members who are elected with the universal, direct suffrage according to the proportional representation system. Eight of these seats are reserved for Algerians living abroad. The term of legislature is five years. The members of the National People’s Assembly are directly elected in 48 multi-member constituencies - corresponding to country’s wilayas (administrative districts) - with seats allotted according to the population: one seat for every 80,000 inhabitants and one supplementary seat for every fraction of 40,000. No wilaya has less than four seats. Voting is not compulsory. Either the president or one of the parliamentary chambers may initiate legislation.
In December 1991 the first free multiparty general elections for the former National People’s Assembly were held. After the first round it was very clear that the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was going for a victory. The army then cancelled the elections and suspended the constitution. This escalated and was followed by widespread disturbances and numerous arrests of prominent Islamists.
After the escalations had cooled down an advisory body on legislation, the National Consultative Council, was set up in April 1992. It functioned until the National Transitional Council was inaugurated in May 1994 for a three-year transitional period. In March 1997 a new electoral law was adopted and a new date for elections was announced in June 1997.
The National Council
The National Council (the upper house) was first instituted in 1996 and consists of 144 seats. Wilaya assemblies indirectly elect 96 members of the National Council and 48 are appointed by the president. The term of legislature is six years, of which half of the members are being re-elected or reappointed every three years.
At this moment the elected seats of the National Council mainly go to the RND (about 83.3 percent), FLN (10.4 percent), FFS (Front of Socialist Forces 4.1 percent) and Hamas/HMS/MSP (Movement for a Peaceful Society 2.1 percent). The last election of the National Council took place in December 2003.
The president of the National Council is Adbelkader Bensalah. The National Council is a legislative branch and must approve any law approved by the National Assembly with a three-quarters majority.
Gender representation and LGBT+ rights In Algeria’s current parliament, 26% of all 462 seats belong to female MPs. On local levels, the political participation of women remains low, because the elections are more personal and many fear the consequences it could have on their daily lives. Nevertheless, the representation of women in politics is growing, also due to measures taken by the legislative. By constitution, discrimination on the basis of sex is forbidden and the state is required to ensure the status of equality. In 2015 the parliament voted in favour of several amendments to the penal code, which criminalise some forms of domestic violence. For example, assault against one’s partner or former partner is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and in cases of death even a life sentence is possible. Further, sexual harassment in public has been criminalised. But concrete measures and regulations for authorities on how to prevent and react to domestic violence are still missing. Also, divorcing remains more difficult for women than for men. An unilateral divorce is possible for men, but women need to apply to a court and in case the husband objects, have to pay back their dowry. There are organisations, which fight against the legal situation of women and the implementation of the human rights that are already written down in the Algerian constitution. An example for feminist activist groups is the Reseau Wassila/Avife (Association contre les violences faites aux femmes et aux enfants).
As for LGBT+ minorities, Algeria takes a rather conservative stance. Homosexuality is a crime and punishable by up to three years in prison through the application of several laws. Authorities have arrested people for same-sex relations, but it is uncommon to be actually prosecuted. Still, there are many reports of violent reactions and hate crimes towards openly LGBT+ people. The public opinion opposes more rights for affected persons, because it goes against Islamic faith. Across the country, you can nonetheless find small groups of the LGBT+ community that try to raise awareness, such as Gays et Lesbiennes d’Algérie and the Algerian Gay Organization.
On the 4th of May 2017 parliamentary elections for Algeria’s 462-seat National Assembly took place. The National Liberation Front (FNL), party of current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, won 164 seats, a loss of 44 seats compared to the previous elections. It’s government coalition partner, the National Democratic Rally (RDN), won 97 seats, 29 more than in the previous election. The current coalition will thus retains its majority.
The opposition remains very fragmented with 26 parties getting 10 or less seats. Among the Islamist parties the Islamist alliance Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP) was the biggest party, winning 33 seats. The Rally for Hope in Algeria (TAJ), which participated for the first time, was the second biggest Islamist party with 19 seats. The Islamist parties won 67 seats combined, 7 more than in the previous elections. The secular and social democratic parties Front of Socialist Forces (FFS) and Algerian Popular Movement (MPA) won 14 and 13 seats respectively. Of the 462 MP’s elected, 120 are women.
|Party||Seats in Parliament|
|National Liberation Front (FLN)||164|
|National Rally for Democracy||97|
|Tajamoua Amel El Djazair (TAJ)||19|
|"Nahda - Adala - Bina" (N A B)||15|
|Front El Moustakbal (FM)||14|
|Front of Socialist Forces (FFS)||14|
|Algerian Popular Movement (MPA)||13|
|Workers Party (PT)||11|
Turnout was very low in the North-African country, with only 38 percent of the more than 23 million registered voters casting their vote. In the 2012 turnout was low as well, but slightly higher with 43 percent. Many Algerians distrust the political system which they view as corrupt; the National Assembly is granted only limited powers, while the president holds ultimate power. After accusations emerged in February that candidates payed to have their names added to party lists Algerians became even more sceptical about the fairness of the elections. Furthermore many young Algerians didn’t vote because of the lack of change and reforms implemented and the high youth unemployment rate.
Allegations of fraud
Dozens of allegations of fraud, and a few hundred irregularities have been reported, despite an independent electoral commission and the presence of nearly 300 observers. Abderrazak Makri, leader of the MSP, also outed allegations of fraud saying his party would have been the biggest party if there hadn’t been any fraud. Elections observers have not yet commented on the accusations of fraud. Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui said the elections were a success.
The most recent presidential elections took place in April 2014. Incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ran and won for a fourth term. He gained over 81 percent of the votes, despite a declining health that prevented him from actively campaigning. Other candidates running in this election were Ali Benfils for the Independents, Louisa Hanoune of the Workers' Party (PT), Moussa Touati of the Algerian National Front (FNA), Abdelaziz Belaid for the Front for the Future Party, and Ali Fawzi Rebaine for Ahd 54.
Algeria's main opposition leaders said before the election that it was a "done deal" set up in Bouteflika's favour.
|Abdelaziz Bouteflika (National Liberation Front)||8,332,598||81.53 %|
|Ali Benfils (Independent)||1,244,918||12,18 %|
|Abdelaziz Belaid (Front for the Future)||343,624||3,36 %|
|Louisa Hanoune (Workers' Party)||140,253||1.37 %|
|Ali Fawzi Rebaine (Ahd 54)||101,046||0.99 %|
|Moussa Touati (Algerian National Front)||57,590||0.56 %|
The results of the presidential election of 2012 were clearly in favour of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who gained more than 80 percent of votes. Nevertheless, authorities put the turnout at just above 51 percent, which is quite low. There were a few incidents, especially in the Berber area of Kabylie. Bouteflika called the election an “eloquent lesson in democracy” shortly after results were announced. He thanked Algerians for the confidence they granted him. At the same time, his main opponent Ali Benfils condemned the election as a "fraud on a massive scale".
The proportion of Algerians who went voting was much smaller this time than in 2009, when around 75 percent of went voting. Many voices rose to denounce the lack of change within Algerian politics and the need for new political figures to step in. Despite all that, some voters underlined that their priority was on stability and peace and the Bouteflika choice thus made sense. Indeed, his first mandates led to a reduction in the civil war conflicts as well as a restoration of economic stability.
Allegations of fraud
Observers and Bouteflika's five low-profile challengers criticized Bouteflika’s victory, according to them there was a lot of fraud. The Interior Minister, however, did not notice any precise and concrete cases which would indicate large scale fraud. People protesting against the results after they were announced, blocked roads with burning tires and clashed with police in the Kabylie province east of Algiers. The opposition Front of Socialist Forces accused the authorities of artificially inflating the turnout. “There was a real tsunami of massive fraud which reached an industrial scale”, the party said in a statement. The RCD, which called for a boycott of the election, said youth tried to storm its Algiers headquarters after the announcement of the results. A party statement said clashes occurred when Bouteflika supporters tried to pull out the black flag the party was waving above its offices in sign of mourning for Algeria's faltering democracy. Said Sadi also said he would take Algerian PM Ahmed Ouyahia to court for defamation. During the election campaign Ouyahia had publicly denounced those calling for an election boycott as traitors to the nation. The opposition leader also accused Bouteflika of violating the country’s law by appropriating the struggle against the colonial French for himself, saying Bouteflika abused the nation’s symbols of heritage. Sadi accused the Algerian president of using liberation war heroes for his campaign posters even though Algerian electoral law prohibits it. He was not very optimistic about his chances of success in an Algerian court, but insisted his legal action did have a more symbolic importance.
The election results matter to the outside world because Algeria, an OPEC member, has the world's 15th largest oil reserves and accounts for 20 percent of the EU's gas imports. Turmoil in Algeria could also lead to a wave of illegal migrants to Europe. Some sections of the population feel disconnected from the political process and analysts say that helps feed Algeria's low-level Islamist insurgency, now affiliated to al-Qaeda.
Adam Carr's Homepage: People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
Al Jazeera: 4 May 207; Algeria votes amid expected low turnout
Al Jazeera: 5 May; Algeria ruling coalition wins parliamentary elections
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