Magharebia (Washington DC)

Algeria: Local Youths Discuss Election Results

Algiers — With seats up for grabs in 1,541 town halls across 48 wilayas, young Algerians braved the weather to elect their local councillors.

Despite the pouring rain, Algerians went to the ballot box last week to elect their local councillors. Predictably, the turnout was not very high. But quite apart from the weather conditions, the most interesting aspect was what was at stake.

Young people, who make up more than half of the electorate, were targeted heavily by party campaigners. For many of them, these elections were an opportunity to make their voices heard more loudly.

"I know they won't sort everything out, but the fact that they're listening to us is something. We will remind those who were elected of the pledges they made during the pre-election campaign and we hope they will open their doors," said Hamid Saouli, an unemployed young man who lives in the Algiers district of Badjarrah.

Opinions were divided in the Algiers suburb of Ben Aknoun. Houria Gherzouli, who works for a private company, was asked by one party to be on its list of candidates. She refused and did not even turn out to vote.

"I want to do my part to improve things in my area and help people, but I find that the old practices still prevail. People stand as candidates to serve their own interests, not those of other people. They want to get rich on the back of voters, and I refuse to be a part of that," she said.

Salim Nouari, a student who lives in the same district, felt it was important to vote.

"We have to vote, it doesn't really matter who for... I know that only mass participation of the public in the elections and effective participation in the electoral campaign can make candidates pay more attention to people's concerns," he said.

The National Liberation Front (FLN) and the National Rally for Democracy (RND) were the big winners of the November 29th elections. The FLN won landslide in 159 municipalities, and the RND did the same in 132.

Two hours after polling stations opened, 3% of the nation's voters had cast their ballots. But as each hour passed, more and more people headed to the polls, particularly towards the end of the day.

By the time the polls closed, over 44% of the national electorate had turned out to vote, according to Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia.

The minister said that some irregularities occurred, but that supervisory and monitoring committees "were able to resolve the cases which were reported and order was restored".

Only in ten town halls were the Movement for a Peaceful Society (MSP) and its allies, the Green Algeria Alliance, able to secure a majority. This result provided further evidence of the collapse of the Islamist parties, which began with the May 10th legislative elections.

MSP leader Bouguerra Soltani was disappointed and questioned the authenticity of the results.

"The climate surrounding the elections and the various irregularities which occurred at every stage... damaged the sincerity and credibility of the results and destroyed their legitimacy," he said.

Analysts put the continuing slump suffered by the Islamists down to the fact that they have fragmented into several parties.

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