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Algeria sets new date for presidential elections, how feasible?

17.09.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Like other African nations that cast their votes in presidential elections this year, Algeria will be joining the pace as its citizens head to the polls on December 12, 2019 to vote their political leaders. Provisional president Abdelkader Bensalah on Sunday disclosed that December 12 has been chosen as the official date for elections in the North African nation. In a statement, Interim President Bensalah said: "I have decided that the date of the presidential election will be Thursday, December 12’’. The announcement of a new election date follows a call from army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah that elections be conducted before 2019 culminates, in spite of ongoing protests calling for the formation of new bodies or institutions prior to elections, which would as well oversee the nation’s political, social and economic affairs.

According to the Lt. General, the present atmosphere is undermining the country’s stability.  President Bensalah has in the meantime lauded the army chief for the country’s stability, while challenging Algerians to embrace this opportunity to choose their new political leaders. This new date goes in line with the country’s constitution, which stipulates that elections must be held within 90 days from the day of the presidential decree paving the way to elections. The political atmosphere of Algeria has remained turbulent in recent times, as Algerians have continued to press for major political reforms in the country. The turbulence stemmed from then President Abbelaziz Bouteflika’s quest to run for elections despite being frail for years.

However, he resigned in April this year under duress from the Army. The April 18 election suffered a postponement due to his resignation and continuous nationwide protest for the departure of officials who served under Bouteflika. The July 4 vote could not materialize as there were no eligible candidates to contest for the presidency. It was therefore pushed to a later date by the Constitutional Council of Algeria.

Independent National Authority for the organization of Elections

Algeria on Sunday September 15, 2019 named the head and components of the new electoral body to oversee the organization and monitoring of the pending elections. An ex- Justice Minister, Mohammed Sharafi would be spearheading the activities of the independent National election body. Thus, any election related issues including ‘’petition, notification or rejected complaints would be channeled to the Independent National election authority. Speaking after his appointment, Sharafi underlined that the Authority has as obligation to receive candidate nominations, monitor the electoral process, and announce its results. The 50 member body the Independent National Authority for the organization of Elections have been charged with the task of ensuring that the country peaceably goes to the polls on the set date, December 12.  Reiterating on the role of the Independent National Electoral body, serving Justice Minister Belkacem Zeghmati said the election body has a greater task of organizing and monitoring all the stages of the electoral process.

Though President Bensalah sees this independent body as a way towards organizing a transparent election, Algerians perceive Sharafi as a remnant of Bouteflika regime, thus expecting little from him. It is however too early to judge as the then Justice Minister has vowed that him and is subordinates would peacefully lead the country into conducting a transparent, calm, free and fair elections.

 President Bensalah sacks HIISE Secretary General

Ahead of the formation of a fresh election commission, the acting president on Sept. 15 dismissed the Secretary-General of Algeria’s High Independent Authority for Election (HIISE then election body in charge of the country’s election affairs) Fouad Makhlouf. His dismissal paved the way for the dissolution of the old electoral body and the creation of a new and autonomous one to supervise the activities of the December 12 slated president elections.

Opposition boycott

The opposition in Algeria have not fully welcomed the developments that led to the presidential decree announcing the fresh presidential polls by December. According to media reports, the opposition parties represented in the People’s National Assembly vehemently boycotted a parliament session that saw the passing of two important bills into law.  The two bills included the creation of an “independent” election authority and revision of Algeria’s electoral law.

Protesters not persuaded

Though Algerian authorities have remained enthusiastic and hopeful that the elections will push through in December this year, many protesters who have been pressing for political reforms in the mineral rich nation have overlooked the declaration of the new election date, and persisted with their call for the total evacuation or extinction of the old regime. The feasibility of the new election date and how protesters will react if an election is imposed on them remain two fundamental questions, which can only be answered in the months ahead.   Since the resignation of the 82-year old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 2019, the North African nation has witnessed scenes of protests, with protesters, mainly youths calling for the departure of public officials who served under Bouteflika including acting President Abdelkader Bensalah.  The country awaits the official post-Bouteflika era and how it would influence especially political and economic reforms in the mineral rich country.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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