The results of Algeria’s recent legislative elections, which were held on June 12, 2021, reflect the political equation resulting from the dynamics of shift and change in the country since the protest movement started on Feb. 22, 2019 that led to the fall of former President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, drafting a new constitution and deposing and arresting a large number of leaders from the previous era.

This paper analyzes the results of Algeria’s legislative elections and attempts to foresee its future implications on the country’s political crisis.

Facts and outcomes of Algeria’s parliamentary elections

Algeria held early legislative elections on June 12, 2021 after holding the presidential elections on Dec. 12, 2019 and a referendum on the new constitution on Nov. 1, 2020. 2,490 lists have registered to run in elections; the nominations of 1,483 candidate lists, with 646 representing political parties and 837 independents, were accepted.

The results of the People's National Assembly elections to choose 407 members can be summarized in the following facts:

  • A low turnout for elections. The National Independent Authority for Elections (ANIE) said that 30.2% of eligible voters took part. This is the lowest turnout compared with previous elections (35.7% in 2017 and 42.9% in 2012). In the Kabylie region, turnout reached unprecedented lows. In Bejaia, Bouira and Tizi Ouzou, the turnout was as low as 1%. Among expatriate Algerian communities, numbers were less than 5%. This low turnout can be linked to a boycott by the political and civil protest forces. In addition, some leftist and Kabylie blocs have called for boycotting elections also, notably the Socialist Forces Front, the Rally for Culture and Democracy, the Workers’ Party and the Democratic and Social Movement. There is no doubt that the civil protest forces have succeeded in the boycott strategy which was reflected on the legitimacy of recent elections despite efforts by the ruling regime to encourage public participation and support youth lists in particular through direct financial incentives.
  • 15 out of 26 political parties have failed to win seats in the new Algerian parliament.
  • The failure of the National Liberation Front (FLN), which has been the main ruling party in Algeria since its independence, to win a majority in the new parliament despite occupying 105 seats compared to 161 seats in the previous one. The Democratic National Rally (RND), which is part of the presidential alliance, won 57 seats compared to 100 in the previous parliament. These outcomes clearly show the decline of political parties’ forces on which the structure of Algeria’s political system was founded since the start of the country’s democratic experience in the early 1990s.
  • The rise of lists of independent candidates which ranked second in parliament by winning 78 seats compared to 28 in 2017 elections. These lists mostly represent a group of political activists, youth and businessmen who support the political regime and close to the leadership of the military establishment.
  • A growing representation of political Islam in parliament through two major parties; Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), which won 64 seats compared to 43 in the previous parliament and the Movement for National Construction, which won 40 seats. However, the position of the Justice and Development Front, which has a Muslim Brotherhood inclination, has declined from 10 seats in the previous parliament to 2 seats in the current one. Therefore, the bloc of political Islam represents 22% of the new parliament. This is an important breakthrough even though the bloc was not able to fulfill its promise of a sweeping victory in parliament.

Future of Algeria’s political situation in light of recent elections

The objective of the ruling regime in Algeria from holding early legislative elections was centered on the following two fundamental determinants:

  1. Curb the civil and political protest movement by influencing the existing political equation and preventing any projects for radical change adopted by some revolutionary and radical forces.
  2. Renew the political base of the regime and exclude political and party figures related to Bouteflika regime who belong basically to FLN and RND. Hence, the bet was on the dynamic of lists of independent candidates to restructure Algeria’s political life.

However, achieving these two goals require the following three fundamental conditions:

  • An extensive participation by political forces which adopt the project of change and reform;
  • Achieve a large percentage of voter turnout as an evidence of a genuine popular response to the government’s decision;
  • Present new political figures who enjoy credibility and acceptance by Algerians.

The outcomes of elections clearly show that these conditions were not met in terms of participation by political parties; a large number of these parties boycotted elections. Furthermore, the political and civil protest movement has succeeded in convincing a majority of voters to boycott elections, while authorities failed to introduce new figures able to make the necessary change.

Therefore, we can see that recent parliamentary elections have not achieved their purpose, i.e., pull the country out of the political crisis and renew the rules of the political game in the country. That said, there are three different scenarios for the future of Algeria’s political landscape.

  1. The scenario of a presidential alliance among the main three parties (FLN, RND and MSP). These are the forces that took part in forming coalition governments from 2004 to 2012 by collectively achieving the parliamentary majority needed to form government according to the 2020 constitutional amendments. Based on this scenario, most of independent MPs will join the parliamentary majority. It is highly likely that President Abdelmadjid Tebboune will nominate an independent figure capable of coordinating the government’s work, to head the new cabinet. The new cabinet will be tasked with drafting and implementing a reform program, leading a political and social dialogue to pull the country out of its crisis, even though chances of success are limited. This scenario is the most likely one.
  2. The scenario of an escalation by the protest movement as a result of the existing political crisis and failure of the ruling regime to draft an alternative and effective political formula. Based on this scenario, protests will increase in the streets and President Tebboune will not be able to mend the growing flaws. This in turn will push for new reforms leading to dialogue and another early elections. This scenario is possible.
  3. The scenario of eruption the likelihood of which grows with the deterioration of the living conditions in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, rampant unemployment (at 15% now although official estimates are higher), the government’s elimination of social subsidies, and the failure of dialogue and political openness. According to this scenario, the army might find itself obliged to take control, depose President Tebboune and organize new presidential elections according to a new track of dialogue and reform. This scenario is still unlikely in the short term.

Conclusions

  • The recent parliamentary elections in Algeria were characterized by weak legitimacy, low voter turnout, a decline of the two ruling parties while independents came in the second place, and an increase of the Islamists’ share in parliament. More importantly, outcomes of these elections have proved the failure of achieving the two objectives behind holding these elections: pull the country out of the political crisis and renew the rules of the political game in the country.
  • It is likely that a government will be formed by FLN, RND and MSP, as well as, independent MPs to lead the process of reform and political dialogue. However, expectations of the possible success of the new government’s mission are limited. This might lead to an escalation of the protest movement.    

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