Practical preparations began in Algeria for the early parliamentary elections to be held on 12 June 2021, following the decision by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in February 2021 to dissolve the People's National Assembly. These elections constitute the third stage in the course of political transformations experienced by Algeria in the past year, after the election of the country’s President and the ratification of the country’s new constitution.

This paper examines the political context in which the upcoming elections would be held, highlights the determinants of the electoral process, and explores their future prospects and their impact on the Algerian political scene.

The political context of the early parliamentary elections

The context of the upcoming elections is defined by the recent transformations in the Algerian political arena after the resignation of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on 2 April 2019. The most prominent of those determinants include the following:

  • The election of Abdelmadjid Tebboune as the new president of Algeria in December 2019, with the support of the military establishment, as part of an electoral race in which five candidates participated and which was boycotted by most of the opposition parties.
  • The demise of Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, Chief of Staff of the Algerian Army, on 23 December 2019, right after the inauguration of the new President whom he selected and rendered successful.
  • The prosecution and liquidation of the figures of the Abdelaziz Bouteflika regime, including political and party leaders and influential figures from his family and personal circles.
  • The continuation of the Popular Movement (Hirak) which demands a radical change of the political system, and its rejection of the constitutional and legal reforms and changes that followed the phase of Bouteflika's exit from the political scene.
  • The conduct of a popular referendum on the country's new constitution on 1 November 2020, with a limited participation rate that did not exceed 23 percent, where the Constitution was accepted by 66 percent of the votes cast. The most important reforms in the new constitution included strengthening the independence of the judiciary, limiting the mandate of the President of the Republic to two terms, limiting the parliamentary mandate to two terms, consolidating the powers of the head of the executive government, and mainstreaming the procedures of political and civil organisation.
  • The issuance of a new electoral law on 10 March 2021 to ensure the transparency and integrity of the elections and combat fraud, bribery and corruption in the electoral process, with the assignment of an independent election commission to fully supervise the electoral process.

The illness of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and his complete absence from the political scene throughout his long period of treatment in German hospitals (from October 2020 to mid-February 2021) have affected the nature of the ongoing political transformations, in a phase of increasing indications of the return to the fore of the military and security leaders excluded by President Bouteflika. Hence, it becomes clear that the decision to dissolve parliament and hold early legislative elections falls within a dual framework that consists of completing the liquidation of the legacy of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and renewing the rules of the political game imposed by the Popular Movement that has continued since 22 February 2019.

New electoral equation

At the end of April 2021, the Independent Electoral Commission announced the lists that obtained a final licence to run for the next legislative elections, according to the conditions stipulating in short that the list obtain 24,000 signatures from at least 23 of the 58 states of Algeria. According to the Commission’s data, 19 political parties have managed to apply to the next elections, while 34 parties failed to obtain the required signatures. 765 independent lists also applied for the elections.

While the parliamentary elections were boycotted by the left-wing parties, which are active in the tribal region (the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), which is the oldest opposition party, the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), the Workers’ Party, and the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS)), as well as the Union for Change and Progress Party, the two parties which had previously constituted the pillars of the authority, namely the National Liberation Front and the Democratic National Rally (RND) are taking part in the elections. Also participating are the parties affiliated with the political Islam movement, such as the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), the Ennahda (Renaissance) Movement, the Movement for National Reform, the Justice and Development Front, and the National El Bina (Construction) Movement.

Prospects for the electoral process

While it is difficult to predict the prospects of the electoral process and its future results, some indicators have emerged, including the following:

  • The keenness of the new ruling authorities to renew the political class loyal to them, which was reflected in the liquidation of the former leaders of the ruling majority parties, including former heads of government, as well as obstructing the candidacy of the current Secretary-General of the Liberation Front Abou el-Fadl Baadji, due to the absence of a statement in his file that indicates his fulfilment of the military service. In addition, the new procedure that limits the parliamentary mandate to two terms would prevent most traditional political figures from returning to parliament.
  • The multiplicity of independent lists that mostly include names close to the regime, such as Nidaa al-Watan (Call of the Homeland) and the al-Hosn al-Mateen (Solid Fortress), which explains the keenness of the new authorities to weaken the traditional ruling parties and create a new political equation that attracts the youth and civil movement active in the street.
  • The protest forces' rejection of the upcoming elections, which they consider would not be decisive in bringing about the desired changes, thus exposing the vote to the risk of boycott and weak participation, similar to the constitutional referendum which was organised in November 2020.
  • The strong willingness on the part of political Islam parties to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, which they are betting on in order to take the lead in the future political scene.

Thus, three distinct scenarios can be foreseen for the Algerian political scene following the upcoming legislative elections:

  1. The Scenario whereby the new regime would control the upcoming political map through independent lists and traditional majority parties. According to this scenario, the new government would succeed in changing the political interfaces and approach the influential forces of change without a fundamental change in the composition of power. This scenario would possibly lead to a decline in the position and influence of the previous presidential parties which are the main subject of rejection by the escalating popular protest.
  2. The scenario whereby political Islam currents would achieve important results in the next poll, based on the indications of their heavy participation and the performance of some of their parties in previous competitions, especially the MSP, which is believed to be the main force in the opposition front. According to this scenario, the Islamic bloc may succeed in passing an option close to the Moroccan one, by taking over the premiership within a coalition composition. This option is supported by some components of the ruling authority within the military establishment in particular.
  3. The Scenario of failure of the elections due to the escalation of the protest movement, trade union and labour strikes, and the low rate of popular participation, taking into account the implications of the existing epidemic conditions and the stifling economic and living crisis. Some voices have emerged that call for the postponement of the elections for a period of three months, according to the powers granted to the President of the Republic. There were also calls to stop the electoral process and return to the stage of inclusive political dialogue, in order to reach comprehensive radical reforms in accordance with the agenda of the youth and civil protest movement. According to this scenario, the deterioration of the political situation may lead to the exacerbation of political turmoil and open the door again for the intervention of the military establishment in government.

Conclusion

  • Practical preparations have started in Algeria for the early parliamentary elections, which would be held on 12 June 2021, following the decision in February 2021 by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to dissolve the Legislative Council.
  • These elections come against the backdrop of the continuing popular movement that demands a radical change of the political system, and its rejection of the constitutional and legal reforms and changes that followed the phase of Bouteflika's exit from the political scene.
  • The two loyalist parties and the political Islam parties would participate in the elections, while the left-wing parties and the protest movement forces announced their boycott of the elections.
  • There are two possible scenarios for the Algerian political scene if the elections are held on time: either the new regime would control the upcoming political map through the independent lists without a fundamental change in the power composition, or political Islam currents would achieve important results, which amounts to a replication of the Moroccan model.

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