As a presidential republic, the presidential elections are of greatest political importance every five years. The incumbent Abdelaziz Boutaflika had opponents in 2004 and 2009, but they had no real chance against him because they did not represent any relevant political forces.
According to the constitution, proportional representation applies to parliamentary elections in Algeria; the parliamentarians move into parliament via party lists.
In mid-January the law on political parties was changed and the approval of political parties simplified; accordingly, there are currently 17 authorized parties, the most important of which are:
- National Liberation Front (Front de Liberation Nationale, FLN), Party of the Revolution, former state party
- National Democratic Collection (Rassemblement National Démocratique, RND), centrist pro-regime party of former Prime Minister Ouyahia affiliated with the FLN
- Mouvement de la Société de la Paix (Mouvement de la société pour la paix, Hamas), Islamist party, so-called moderate Islamists
(these three parties support the president’s policy)
- Workers’ Party (Parti des Travailleurs, PT), is called Trotskyist, but is more left-nationalist oriented – for example Venezuela and the left-wing Latin American governments. Special feature: is run by a woman, Louisa Hanoune.
- Collection for culture and democracy (Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie, RCD), secular, democratic opposition party with a Kabyle background
- Socialist Forces Front (Front des Forces socialistes FFS) – election boycott in 2007, the party of the Kabyle with overall national claim, deeply rooted in Kabylia, secular and democratic
In the parliamentary elections on May 10, 2012, the regime’s parties were given a majority. The turnout was just over 40%. Due to the weak, quasi subordinate position of parliament in the Algerian constitution, the parliamentary election is not taken very seriously and serves more as a mood barometer. Election observers from the European Union were admitted and raised no objections.
The same applies to the local elections, which took place on November 29, 2012. In them the party representatives in the town halls and the local state representatives in the Wilayat assemblies (state parliaments) are elected. The governors of the Wilayas (Walis) are, however, installed centrally by the president, the role of the elected bodies is more legitimizing and consultative.
Fin de règne?
The centralized construction of the constitution is tailored to the president. The constitution, however, is not sacrosanct and is changed quite often, for example to give the current incumbent Bouteflika another mandate. The other institutions outside the constitutional center – the president – are comparatively weak. Therefore, the President’s person and health are the subject of constant attention. According to official information, the president suffered a so-called transitory ischemic attack (TIA) on April 27, 2013, and a day later there was talk of a minor stroke. As usual in such situations, Bouteflika was brought to France, where he stayed until July 16, 2013 – for 80 days – and had to undergo intensive medical rehabilitation. Meanwhile all important decisions were postponed; serious information about the president’s health was not made public.
After his return in a wheelchair, the country remained politically paralyzed, as there are no more cabinet meetings due to Bouteflika’s poor health and the executive branch is therefore no longer able to act unrestrictedly. For a long time it remained unclear whether Bouteflika would apply for another mandate; a phase of uncertainty and obscure maneuvers and cabinet reshuffles followed.
The presidential election on April 17, 2014
Ultimately, in February 2014, Bouteflika announced his candidacy for a fourth term. The President did not make a single campaign appearance and appeared in a wheelchair at the ballot box; in addition, he obviously has articulation problems and must therefore be described as a seriously ill man. According to official information, he still received over 80% of the vote with a turnout of around 50% and will remain Algerian President for four more years.
The Barakat citizens’ movement, which carried out numerous demonstrations, and the Kabyle opposition parties RCD and FFS called for a boycott of the election.
However, the country has been so traumatized by the years of civil war (“décennie noir”) that Bouteflika still enjoys sympathy as a guarantor of internal stability. This trauma is also the main reason for the weak echo of the so-called Arabellion in Algeria. That is why the upheaval in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt was viewed much more skeptically in Algeria against the background of their own experiences.
According to computergees, the president’s apparently poor health points to an early end to his regime. After that, a period of intense political uncertainty is to be feared. Therefore, the “calm” in Algeria could soon be over.