Since longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced to resign two years ago, Algerians have begun to vote in the first parliamentary elections, but the opposition Chirac movement has The leader called for a boycott after his arrest on Thursday.
The polling station opens at 8 am (07:00 GMT) and will close at 7 pm.
Approximately 24 million Algerians are eligible to vote for 407 members of the National Assembly for a term of five years.
The Chirac movement has been spearheading anti-government protests, calling for fundamental changes to the political system of the country Bouteflika has ruled for 20 years.
Pro-government parties urge Algerians to actively participate in what they call “voting vital to national stability,” while opponents condemned “false” elections.
Seven major protest movement figures, including the main opposition figure Karim Tabbou, were arrested on Thursday, and on Friday the police deployed a large number of police in the capital Algiers to prevent the Chirac movement from holding anti-government protests.
The early elections should be a model for President Abdulmajid Tebun’s “New Algeria”, focusing on young candidates and candidates outside the political elite.
Those who vote in the largest country in Africa must choose from more than 13,000 candidates, more than half of which are classified as “independent” candidates.
Said Salhi, the head of the Algeria League for the Defense of Human Rights, condemned the pre-voting crackdown.
Salhi said, “The repressive atmosphere and restrictions on human rights and freedoms mean that these elections have no democratic value.”
Farida Hamidi, a Hirak activist in Paris, said that this election is of little significance to young Algerians whose dreams are changing.
“We reject all of this: the president, the parliament, the constitution, and everything that this military government that has ruled Algeria since 1962-we want something else,” she said.
Call for boycott
Since Chirac mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in 2019 to force the long-term president Bouteflika to resign after running for the fifth term, Chirac has been urging a boycott of all national opinion polls.
After nearly a year of interruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, the movement returned to the streets in February and survived arrests, presidential elections, and part of the constitutional referendum aimed at burying it.
But the government increased its suppression of Chirac last month, prevented protests, and detained hundreds of activists who ignored the new restrictions on public gatherings.
The independent journalist Khaled Drareni and the director of the broadcaster Ihsane El Kadi, who supported the reform, were also among the seven detained on Thursday.
Amnesty International said in a statement: “These arrests mark the chilling suppression of the right to freedom of speech and association by the Algerian authorities.” According to reports, more than 200 people have been detained for the Chirac movement.
“Instead of rounding up journalists and political opponents to suppress dissidents and intimidate members of the Chirac protest movement, the Algerian authorities should focus on respecting their human rights obligations.”
Old guard, economic dilemma
President Tebone claimed to have responded to Chirac’s main request “in record time,” but stated that those who are still protesting are “counter-revolutionaries” paid by “foreign political parties.”
Said Chengliha, chief of staff of the powerful armed forces, warned against taking any actions “designed to disrupt” voting.
The protest movement stated that Tebboune’s past role as prime minister under Bouteflika confirmed his claim that the old guards who have been in power since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962 still have a firm grip on power.
The established parties related to Bouteflika’s rule—the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the National Democratic Assembly (RND)—are seen as likely to lose their seats, discredited and blamed for the political and economic crisis in Algeria.
Islamic parties are also seeking to use the Hirak boycott to increase their representation-but because their votes are split among the five rival parties, they may struggle to make real gains.
Political scientist Rachid Grime said: “With so many candidates, the calculation of power is simple: elect a patchwork parliament without a majority, which will allow the president to create his own parliamentary majority to govern. “
According to the World Bank, Africa’s fourth-largest economy relies heavily on oil revenues, with an unemployment rate of over 12%.
According to the Ministry of Health, the country is also affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused more than 3,500 deaths.
“Algeria’s elections have always proved that they are not solutions. The solution lies in a democratic transition, but also in a dialogue around the table to resolve the crisis,” said activist Sophian Hadaji.