22 November 2012

Algeria: Slow End for Algerian Local Elections

Algiers — Algerian local elections will be contested by 52 parties, but few of them have managed to gather necessary funds and field candidates in all contests.

With some Algerians questioning the credibility of the local elections scheduled for November 29th, the campaign season is crawling to a sluggish close.

Many have been critical of the government, including Bouguerra Soltani, chairman of the Islamist party Movement for a Society of Peace. "The government has no appetite for change," he said.

After receiving a report from the EU on the elections, the government decided to implement 17 of the 31 recommendations listed, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said at a November 6th press conference.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal assured that the elections would be "credible".

A total of 52 parties are competing for representation. But with many not receiving government approval until recently, smaller parties are experiencing financial difficulties.

That forced some parties to cut their lists of candidates, spoiling their chances of gaining a presence in provincial and local assemblies. It also limited their ability to travel around the country, leaving them to attend community-level meetings with citizens in working-class districts.

Algerian Local Election Monitoring Committee president, Mohamed Seddiki, suggested that the Algerian government give financial aid to small parties to cover their campaign expenses.

Since it is illegal for parties to receive financial assistance from the government, potential parties who would be affected will have to wait for legislative reform.

The only parties to submit lists of over 1,500 candidates that will run for office across the country are the well-established National Liberation Front and the National Democratic Assembly, according to figures released by the Ministry of the Interior.

Others are making do with the prospect of gaining only a token presence.

"Of the 52 parties competing in local elections, 36 have listed fewer than 100 candidates, 25 of which listed 50 candidates. One party has listed only two," said Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia, during a press conference held on October 20th.

Voter apathy is typically high in local elections, and some expect this to be the case on election day.

"Things will likely not change on November 29th", political journalist Kaci Amrani told Magharebia. While there is general agreement on the importance of the elections, citizens expressed hope for reform.

"I want these elections to finally enable us to elect local representatives who are capable of satisfying the aspirations of citizens when it comes to housing, employment and health," said Ramzi B., a medical student.

Some of the more established parties have decided to boycott the election. That includes the Justice and Development party.

The Algerian government does not want to achieve "true democratic openness", the Islamist party leader Abdellah Djaballah said.

Other citizens plan to refrain from voting as a form of protest against the conduct of outgoing mayors. That's the case for Karima Ouali, a public-sector worker who plans to stay home on election day. She said many of the mayors were "being prosecuted for corruption-related offences".

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