NOTE: 2012 APN charts are updated (14 May 2012).
NOTE: Readers can also compare this blogger’s recent writing on the election with his initial thoughts (circa December/January) on Islamist prospects in the election at Fair Observer — ‘Islamist Prospects in Algeria.’
The Algerian elections reinforced the FLN and RND’s dominance of the formal political process, ,and exposed the persistence of the Algerian regime’s machinery of fraud. Despite high confidence and reports and rumours of promises of manipulation, the MSP (Brotherhood)-led Islamist Green Algeria Alliance (AAV) roughly as many seats as the MSP itself held in the 2007 legislature. Opposition parties and foreign observers are complaining about irregularities, fraud and manipulation. The FLN came out with the largest number of seats, nearly doubling its share; the RND more or less held steady. Minor opposition parties like Louisa Hanoune’s Workers Party (PT; an interesting story on the party in Blida is here; also interesting about Blida is that the MSP performed poorly there, one of its traditional strongholds, which speaks to the extent of fraud and vote buying) and Moussa Touati’s Algerian National Front (FNA) lost out to new parties and independents. The Hocine Ait Ahmed’s Front of Socialist Forces (FFS; the oldest opposition party), which was alleged by many to be under heavy pressure from the regime to participate aggressively, both in the election campaign and also in regional and local municipal politics this year, recuperated a similar number of seats as those it held the last time it participated in national legislative polls in 1997. In some areas where the FLN did unbelievable well voters were quoted as saying “I cannot believe the results”; in certain semi-rural areas the FLN came close to winning 100 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was low even by official accounts. The 2012 legislative election thus reinforces the dominant electoral trend in Algerian formal politics: low participation and high voter indifference, increasingly intense incumbent success and consistent fraud.
It will important to watch how the FLN delegates behave in the new APN; whether they will carry over the rivalries and dissidence that has characterised much of FLN’s recent internal politics and whether Secretary General Abdelaziz Belkhadem will remain dominant in the party.
The complaints over fraud from parties like the MSP, which are reliant on cooperation with the regime for access to state resources and to maintain their patronage networks, point to longer term tensions within in the elite. It will be important to watch whether the MSP pursues these complaints or seeks to take some symbolic retaliatory action, and if such parties will seek to reenter the ruling coalition (or if they are allowed to).
It was interesting to watch the MSP make its effort at grassroots campaigning, passing out green baseball caps, canvassing and the rest. It still probably inaccurate to say, as one Algerian political scientist did in the New York Times, that ‘in a fair vote, the people would have voted for the Islamists.’ The moderate Green Alliance parties are not mass based, popular parties like the FIS was; they have concentrations of support and relatively narrow constituencies ideologically speaking. They are outnumbered by non-Islamists and more conservative trends, including Salafis who probably command a larger share of young Algerians than any single religious trend aside from “mainstream” Algerian Islam, and who generally refuse to vote, let alone for the Muslim Brothers. It is probably accurate to say, though: ‘The government has lots of money, and it is distributing it … This regime will last another few years.’ Or, as The Economist put it
Some say that certain people in “le pouvoir” know that real democracy cannot be postponed indefinitely. Two days before the elections, Mr Bouteflika said that “my generation has had its time.” The elections will give at least some indication of who might run the country if ordinary people were allowed a real say. There is no sign they will have it soon.
Below are charts showing the breakdown of the Algerian legislature in 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012. The last chart shows a gender breakdown of the seats taken by each party (There are more women in the new legislature than any previous one; compare the last chart below with the charts and sheets posted on this blog in 2009 and 2010 for the 2007 legislature . The breakdowns for 2012 are based on a tally from Liberte (here; note this is a provisional tally; a chart with the full count is forthcoming).