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Election campaigning makes muted start in Algeria


Algerian men look at electorial campaign posters for the upcoming legislative elections in Algiers’ Martyrs Square as the official start of campaigning got underway on April 9, 2017. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

Campaigning for Algeria’s May 4 elections got off to a muted start Sunday, with the public showing little interest in the poll despite government efforts to persuade disillusioned voters to participate.

Over the coming three weeks, 12,000 candidates will compete for 462 seats in the People’s National Assembly, with 23 million Algerians registered to vote. But in Algiers, few parties posted candidate lists on the boards reserved for them.

Many people walked past hoardings without a glance. “Every time, we are promised wonders and marvels, then: nothing,” said Fatma Zohra, a widow who said she is struggling to provide for her three children.

The cleaner in her fifties said she is unlikely to vote. “I don’t have time for that. I work at a company in the morning and in private homes in the afternoon,” she said.

Analyst Rachid Tlemcani predicted a “morose” election campaign and the lowest turnout in the country’s electoral history, blaming “the economic and political situation and the fact that the public is fed up”.

Government-sponsored advertisements play in a continuous loop on television in a bid to attract a larger turnout than about 43 percent for the last legislative poll in 2012. But Tlemcani says the public is tired of quarrels between political parties.

“Once elected, candidates disappear completely,” he said. “Voters are not idiots.” Algeria’s parliament has been dominated since independence in 1962 by the National Liberation Front (FLN), which ruled in a single party system until the early 1990s.

Today, with its coalition ally the Rally for National Democracy (RND), the FLN has a majority of seats in the house. Observers say they are likely to keep their majority after other parties said they would boycott the polls.

In the last election, Islamist parties hoped to ride to victory on top of their movement’s achievements during the Arab Spring uprisings. But they registered their worst score since Algeria’s first multi-party poll in the early 1990s.

This year, they have merged or formed alliances in order to increase their chances. Between them, Algeria’s political parties have scheduled no fewer than 1,826 rallies across the country by the last day of campaigning on April 30.

Whether that brings out the vote is yet to be seen. “Supporters of the ruling parties will vote,” said Mohamed, a trade unionist. “So if we want to turn things around, we must vote.”

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