Algeria Announces 2017 Parliamentary Election Date

The Office of the Algerian Presidency published a decree announcing that the country will hold this year’s parliamentary elections on May 4 for the People’s National Assembly, the lower congressional house, according to Algeria’s official news agency. Before the news agency announced the date, Algerian opposition parties had already denounced the upcoming elections. A coalition of political parties, known as the Forum for Consultation and Monitoring of the Opposition, have claimed since August 2016 that pro-government parties rigged the upcoming elections

Ali Benflis, former Algerian minister and leader of the Talaie El Houriat party, said in October that “The general opinion is that elections will not change anything, given the existing laws.” Despite cynicism, most political parties have expressed the intention to participate in the May 2017 election; only one party, Jil Jadid, has announced its abstention.

The last parliamentary elections in 2012 saw the governing party National Liberation Front (FLN) double its share of congressional seats to 220 out of the 462 available seats. Pro-government parties collectively held 62.3% of seats in the assembly following the election. The large 3-party Islamist “Green Alliance,” which expected to take the majority of seats that year, won a surprisingly low 59 seats. Accusations of electoral fraud abounded from both rival parties and some outside commentators.

Jeremy Keenan, a social anthropology professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London disputes the claim that voter turnout reached 42.9% He estimated that voter turnout reached three times lower than the official figure, citing reports from regional groups and a Reuters reporter who stood for 45 minutes outside of a polling station in Algiers without seeing a single voter.

This election will mark Algeria’s sixth parliamentary election since the country adopted a multi-party system after its 1989 political opening. Previously, the FLN constituted the only political party. Algeria has continued to face challenges with transparency and corruption even after the reform allowing for electoral competition,

Since 1998, the international human rights organization Freedom House has consistently ranked Algeria with a 5.5 out of 7 on its scale for political freedom, with 7 as the “least free.” Many commentators have suggested that “le pouvoir” or “the power,” a shadowy group of military generals, purportedly controls Algerian politics behind the scenes.

But le pouvoir had its own troubles in 2015, when President Bouteflika fired famed Algerian spymaster Mohamed Mediene, who had held his position in military intelligence for more than two decades. Before his firing, Mediene earned the reputation as one of the most powerful men in Algeria. If its parliamentary elections continue to disappoint opposition parties and le pouvoir begins to lose its grip, Algeria may be due for escalating political turmoil.