Many thanks to Algerian journalist and blogger Kamel Mansari, who was kind enough to contribute a guest post to Maghreb Blog on last month's legislative elections in Algeria.
Aftermath of the Legislative Elections in Algeria: Women Made History and Hopes for True Change
In his early 20s, Kareem Mokhtari abandoned school five years ago and often sneaks into the cafe to find refuge. He is part of the unemployed masses of young people in Algeria, who watch football to escape their daily constraints and frustrations in Bab el-Oued, a district of the capital Algiers that was an Islamist stronghold in the 1990s. Dozens of civilians, including journalists, were killed in the district during that decade. While he is still watching his favorite player, the official Algerian TV channels broadcast the opening session of the newly elected parliament. Kareem has no idea what is going on the other side of the channels. The cafe owner knows that football is the air his clients breath besides cigarette smoke.
On May10, legislative elections were held in Algeria, and the turnout was low. Some 42 per cent of the voters showed up at the polls, according to the official figures. Kareem is among the thousands of young people who did not turn out to vote because they do not trust the politicians. Polls have shown young Algerians do not believe that elections could bring changes to their daily life. They still dream of leaving the country, but the economic crises in Europe or Canada and elsewhere in the West have frozen their will to leave.
Abdenour Ziani assumes that government loans attract greedy people, mafia groups or are spent on small businesses that do not generate high employment.
In May’s election pro-government parties FLN and RND won the majority of the seats in the elections, but the opposition rejected the results saying the votes were rigged. Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) has won 220 seats out of 462 seats. The National Democratic Rally (RND) placed second with 68 seats in the National People's Assembly, while the Islamist Alliance of Green Algeria came third with 48 seats. The Socialist Forces Front won 21 seats, followed closely by the Workers' Party with 20. Independent candidates took 19 seats, while the Algerian National Front and the Justice and Development Party won nine and seven seats respectively. The Islamists who ran a large campaign were the big losers. They were promising a sweeping victory in line with what happened in Tunisia, Morocco; but say there was huge electoral fraud in the voting.
Women were the big winners. Some 146 women, a record number, were elected to the parliament. The proportion of women elected is higher than that in France, the United States or any other country in the West. Compared to other countries in the MENA region, women in Algeria are more active in policy through parties or local NGOs. Women electoral victory is believed to be an unexpected evolution in a country that is 99 per cent Muslim.