Algeria: Dirty politics, corruption rock May 4 parliamentary elections
Supporters of Algerian President Abdelazziz Bouteflika gather during a political meeting ahead of the country's presidential election in 2014. (AFP/Farouk Batiche)
Click here to add Abdelaziz Bouteflika as an alert
Disable alert for Abdelaziz Bouteflika,
Click here to add Abdelmajid Menassra as an alert
Disable alert for Abdelmajid Menassra,
Click here to add Abdelwahab Derbal as an alert
Disable alert for Abdelwahab Derbal,
Click here to add African Union as an alert
Disable alert for African Union,
Click here to add algeria as an alert
Disable alert for algeria,
Click here to add Algerian government as an alert
Disable alert for Algerian government,
Click here to add Algerian Popular Movement party as an alert
Disable alert for Algerian Popular Movement ...,
Click here to add Algiers as an alert
Disable alert for Algiers,
Click here to add Arab League as an alert
Disable alert for Arab League,
Click here to add army as an alert
Disable alert for army,
Click here to add complexa as an alert
Disable alert for complexa,
Click here to add Democratic and Social Movement party (MDS) as an alert
Disable alert for Democratic and Social Move ...,
Click here to add Djamal Ould Abbas as an alert
Disable alert for Djamal Ould Abbas,
Click here to add European Union as an alert
Disable alert for European Union,
Click here to add Hamid Farhi as an alert
Disable alert for Hamid Farhi,
Click here to add Khenchla as an alert
Disable alert for Khenchla,
Click here to add Mohamed Saidj as an alert
Disable alert for Mohamed Saidj,
Click here to add National Liberation Front party (FLN) as an alert
Disable alert for National Liberation Front ...,
Click here to add Organization of the Islamic Conference as an alert
Disable alert for Organization of the Islami ...,
Click here to add RND party as an alert
Disable alert for RND party,
Click here to add Society for Peace as an alert
Disable alert for Society for Peace,
Click here to add United Nations as an alert
Disable alert for United Nations
Algerian politicians have kicked off their campaign for parliamentary elections next month — and the biggest campaign issue is voter apathy, in a country where low oil prices are squeezing the energy-driven economy, young people see few job prospects and authorities have struggled to keep Islamic extremism at bay.
Algeria’s 22 million voters are also worried about the health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since a 2013 stroke.
Analysts warn that many people may stay away from voting on May 4 because of a long-running distrust of politics — a sentiment deepened by dirty money scandals during the campaign.
The leading parties are trying hard to get out the vote for the election, when 63 parties and many independent lists are competing for 462 seats in the lower house of parliament.
Candidates are meeting voters in cafes and clothing shops, and planting flowers in an Algiers neighborhood to win support.
“We have to vote massively to reinforce political and security stability in the country, and offer support for President Bouteflika,” said Djamal Ould Abbas, head of the governing National Liberation Front party (FLN), at his first rally this week in Khenchla, 500 kilometers east of Algiers.
The RND party, allied with the government, argues that a high turnout is needed to boost the legitimacy of the army in its fight against extremists. The Algerian Popular Movement party argues that high turnout is important to give the parliament a mandate to tackle the country’s economic crisis.
Low energy prices in Algeria, a major gas producer, pushed the outgoing parliament to make unpopular decisions such as raising taxes and freezing public sector salaries. Diversifying the economy is a key priority for the next parliament.
Opposition parties, meanwhile, want high turnout to challenge the long-ruling FLN. While the FLN is expected to keep its parliamentary majority, the legislative elections are an important gauge of political shifts at a time when the president’s health is a widespread concern.
Political scientist Mohamed Saidj said many Algerians “don’t believe in elections, especially for parliament,” since the president holds ultimate power.
He said voters were further alienated by corruption scandals around the creation of party lists in February.
Investigators discovered large amounts of cash when raiding the house of the son of the governing party leader last month — suspected payments by politicians seeking to be included in the FLN’s electoral lists. Party leader Abbas acknowledged efforts to bribe his son, but accused political rivals of “abusing the naiveté” of his son to trap him.
“I am not a police officer. … The affair is in the hands of justice,” Abbas told a news conference.
The scandal is especially damaging to Abbas, who has repeatedly vowed to fight corruption in politics since taking the top job in September.
And his son’s troubles aren’t the only ones.
Hamid Farhi of the opposition Democratic and Social Movement party (MDS) said his party had been approached by people offering to gather signatures to support his candidacy in exchange for cash. “But we refused,” he said.
“We will assure that the elections are clean,” he said. However, he acknowledged, “It’s not easy to change things from one day to the next.”
The Algerian government wants a high turnout to send a message of confidence in its democracy to the international community. The Arab League, African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference have confirmed observer missions, though the UN and EU haven’t responded.
“The people must not be allowed to lose hope in an electoral solution, so that they are not pushed towards radical and violent solutions,” said Abdelmajid Menassra, candidate of the Islamist party Movement of Society for Peace. “That wouldn’t be in anyone’s interests. The electoral doorway must be left open, to protect the country and keep it stable and to maintain people’s faith in their country and its future.”
- Al Tayer bucks the US department store trend with Bloomingdale's Kuwait opening
- Gulf Islamic banks set to outperform conventional banks for second year: Moody's
- Jordan secures EU finance for socioeconomic and environmental programs
- Same-day service deliveries in GCC an untapped market: Wing CEO
- Will terror attacks damper Arabs' appetite for European holidays?
- Corruption Scandals in Poland to Claim Victims at the Ballot Box
- Business marries politics: Mubarak-era Egyptian steel tycoon released on bail
- Votes in Romania, Bulgaria may Impact Balkan Stability
- Trouble in paradise: massive business scandals reveal the other face of Turkey's economic 'miracle'
- The crisis persists: Turkey's stock markets are floundering and it's about more than corruption