Algeria, Elections and Parliament

A. LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS

Constitutional amendments made in the late 1980s paved the way for a multi-party regime, replacing the single-party system dominated by the National Liberation Front (FLN) since Algeria’s independence in 1962. Another constitutional amendment adopted in 1996 made significant changes to electoral procedures. Among its stipulations, it provided for parliamentary representation for Algerian nationals living abroad, and amended electoral, voting, and campaigning procedures. In addition, the amendment prohibits political parties based solely on religious or regional bases. Moreover, the Algerian Parliament became bicameral following the new Constitution, which entered into force in November 1996. It consists of the National People’s Assembly (Al-Majlis Ach-Chaabi Al-Watani) and the National Council (Al-Majlis al-Umma). Together, they exercise legislative power.

All complaints regarding elections are lodged with the Constitutional Council. The Electoral Law governs the elections and the Political Parties Law governs the political parties.

1) The National People’s Assembly

  • Number of seats : 389 (8 seats are reserved for Algerians living abroad)
  • Term of legislature : 5 years
  • Required age for voting : 18
  • Required age for membership : 28

The 389 members of the Assembly are directly elected in 48 multi-member constituencies – corresponding to country’s wilayas (administrative districts) – with seats allotted according to the population: one seat for every 80,000 inhabitants and one supplementary seat for every fraction of 40,000. No wilaya has less than four seats. The election is based on proportional representation. Only lists obtaining 5% or more of the popular vote are allocated seats. Voting is not compulsory.

General elections for the former National People’s Assembly were held in December 1991. The army cancelled the elections and suspended the Constitution, after the 1st round predicted victory for the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). The event was surrounded and followed by widespread disturbances, and numerous arrests of prominent Islamists. In April 1992, the National Consultative Council, an advisory body on legislation, was set up. It functioned until the National Transitional Council was inaugurated in May 1994 for a three-year transitional period. The date of the elections was announced soon after the new electoral law was adopted on the 6th of March 1997.

The first parliamentary elections since 1992 were scheduled for June 1997, in a context of mounting violence by armed groups, as well as human rights violations. FIS called for a boycott after being barred from running, as did the former communist party, Ettahadi. On the 5th of June, the elections took place in the presence of 200 international observers – a derisory number compared to the 37,000 voting stations. Turnout was officially 65.6%. The results defied belief and prompted an outcry at ballot rigging: the RND, which had not even existed three months earlier, had won 156 out of 380 seats. The MSP-Hamas won 69 seats, the FLN 64 and Islamist party 34. The FFS and RCD each won 19 and the Workers Party (PT) four. UN observers noted that some voting conditions could not fully guarantee neutrality in the voting process.

Women represented 3.4% of the total number of members of the Assembly.

2) The National Council
  • Number of seats : 144
  • Term of legislature : 6 years (one-half of the members being renewed every 3 years)
  • Required age for membership : 40
Out of the 144 members of the Council, 96 are indirectly elected by wilaya assemblies (from 48 two-seat wilayas) and 48 appointed by the President of the Republic.
Indirect elections are held in 48 multi-member (2 seats) constituencies – corresponding to country’s wilayas (administrative districts). The electoral college is composed of members of local councils (wilayas and communal assemblies). Voting is compulsory.

B. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

An elected president occupies the head of the executive branch of Algeria. The president of Algeria is elected by universal adult suffrage for a five-year term. Candidates can be nominated in one of two ways; either by 600 elected officials (local and national), or by popular petition of at least 75,000 registered voters. The Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President, appoints the members of the cabinet.
The first elections since the independence of Algeria was declared in 1962 put Ferhat Abbas into power, after which Ben Bella, from the FLN, was elected for a term of five years without opposition in 1963. He was ousted by a military coup led by Houari Boumedienne in 1965. Upon the latter’s death in 1979, colonel Chadli Bendjadid took over the presidency of the country after his candidacy was approved by 94 % of the electorate, and was re-elected as sole candidate in 1984 and 1988. Revelations of vote-rigging published in a pro-government daily “Essalam” in 1991 resulted in widespread disturbances and calls for presidential elections by the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
In January 1992, following the cancellation of legislative elections and the dissolution of the National People’s Assembly by presidential decree, the army forced the president to stand down and designated a five-member High Council of State to govern the country. The leading figure of the Council was Maj. Gen. Nezzar, the Minister of Defence, but its Chairman was Muhammed Boudiaf, one of the leaders of the independence movement. This period was followed by mounting violence, civil strife, widespread arrests and condemnations of FIS members. In 4 months, 700 people were killed, including 100 police personnel. On the 29th of June, while opening a cultural centre in Annaba, Boudiaf was assassinated.
Ali Kafi was then nominated Chairman of the Council, promising a democratic system based on consensus and a modern, efficient state based on social justice. However, violence persisted between militants of the Mouvement Islamique Armé (MIA) and the military government. The activities of the MIA were not directed solely against state employees. There were also deliberate attempts to damage the economy by deterring potential foreign investors, such as bomb attacks at airline offices and at Algiers airport. The period was characterised by mass arrests and other repressive policies, including curfews and the closure of newspapers. By mid-1993, some 400 Islamist militants had been killed and 150 sentenced to death, but violence and terrorist activities escalated further.
Liamine Zeroual, a retired general, was appointed “Head of the State” by a college of high-ranking army officers in January 1994. He appealed for dialogue with Islamic militants to find a solution to the country’s crisis, but the numerous attempts resulted in failure.
The presidential elections of November 1995 were billed as the return of the practice of democracy and the start of the “rebuilding of the institutional edifice”. Elections were also intended for the consumption of the international community, offering it the deceptive image of “a democracy in the making”. Zeroual won the majority with 61% of the votes. Others in the running were Mahfoud Nahnah of the Islamist party Hamas, Saïd Sadi of the RCD and Noureddine Boukrouh of the PRA. Despite doubts over ballot infringements, observers unanimously stressed the size of the turnout (75.6%), interpreting it as a disavowal of the Islamist insurgency. In regions where guerrillas were at their most active, people ignored both GIA threats “to turn ballot boxes into coffins” and FFS, FIS and FLN calls to boycott the elections. This election spelled the beginning of the end of the long transition Algeria had embarked upon in December 1991 with the cancelling of the elections. It made the regime respectable for sections of the opposition, with Hamas and the PRA joining the new government coalition. The main legal opposition parties, together with the banned FIS, were forced to acknowledge the political implications of the election and there were appeals for a renewal of dialogue.
In response to growing political opposition to electoral irregularities, and to demonstrate his differences with senior army officers, President Zeroual announced on September 11th 1998 that he was standing down and that early presidential elections would be called. On December 12th Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared he would be standing as an independent candidate. But the support immediately forthcoming from the FLN, the RND and UGTA pointed to him being the army’s man. He was also backed by Islamist parties, Ennahda and the MSP-Hamas. Eminent jurist, Mohamed Bedjaoui, headed the electoral commission set up by Zeroual to supervise the election for which there were seven candidates: Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Mouloud Hamrouche, Hocine Aït Ahmed, Youcef Khatib, Abdallah Djaballah, Mokdad Sifi and Ahmed Taleb El Ibrahimi.
The MDS, the PT, the RCD and Berber Cultural Movement (MCB) decided to boycott proceedings while candidates voiced their fears of massive fraud in favour of Bouteflika. In April, they demanded that results from mobile and other special polling stations should not be counted, as they suspected government departments of swelling their number to make rigging easier. All the candidates except Bouteflika then withdrew their candidacies in protest.
Finally, on the 15th of April 1999 the election went ahead with 60 % voter turnout and only a single candidate, which did not prevent the interior ministry from publishing votes for the other candidates. Officially Bouteflika won 73.79% of votes cast, followed by Ahmed Taleb El Ibrahimi with 12.53%, Abdallah Djaballah with 3.95%, Hocine Aït Ahmed (3,17%), Mouloud Hamrouche (3%), Mokdad Sifi (2,24%) and finally Youcef Khatib (1,22%).
The most recent elections took place on the 8th of May 2004. Six candidates were running for the elections: Abdelaziz Bouteflika; Ali Benflis, Secretary General of the FLN; Abdallah Djaballah, chief of Reformist party Islah; Saïd Sadi, president of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RDC); Louisa Hanoune, spokeswoman for the Workers Party (PT); and Ali Fawzi Rebaïne, chief of a small nationalist party called Ahd. Benflis, Bouteflika’s former right-hand man, obtained full backing from the FLN for his presidential bid last year. His decision angered Bouteflika, who suddenly removed him from his post as Head of Government in May 2003, the two men becoming bitter opponents. Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, Bouteflika’s main rival in 1999, was evinced by the Constitutional Council on the 1st of March 2004, and Mouloud Hamrouche, former Prime Minister, announced in February that he renounced entering elections which he viewed as fraudulent. The army, long considered a major power behind the scenes in Algerian politics declared its neutrality in the electoral process.
Despite belief that Benflis stood a real chance against Bouteflika, the latter was re-elected into office with 83.49% of the votes, with Benflis only taking 7.93%. He was followed by Djaballah who obtained 4.84%, by Sadi with 1.93%, Hannoun with 1.16%, and finally Rebaïne with only 0.64%. Just after the announcement of the results, Benflis, Djaballah and Sadi issued a joint statement denouncing “fraud at all levels”, but have not provided any proof to their allegations, nor were they backed by the 120 international observers monitoring the poll. His overwhelming victory is accredited mainly to his success in restoring peace to the country after 10 years of civil strife, and for reconciling with Islamic militants by offering them amnesty. Despite renewed allegations of ballot-rigging, many Algerians felt he deserved another term in office. Bouteflika’s immense and monopolising electoral campaign is also thought to have influenced voters. Some intellectuals and analysts believe an authoritarian regime and restrictions of liberties will ensue his election.
The last presidential election took place in april 2009. Abdelaziz Bouteflika won with 90,24%.
The voter turnout was about 74,11%. Besides, there is the preliminary results for all candidats:
  • Hanoune Louiza 4,22%
  • Moussa Touati 2,31%
  • Younsi Mohammed Jahid 1,37%
  • Rebaine Ali Fawzi 0,93%
  • Mohand Oussaid Belaid 0,92%
These elections were followed and observed by international organisations as:
  • UN
  • Arab League
  • African Union
  • OCI (Organisation of The Islamic Conference)
Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union