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2007-11-08

Campaigning begins for Algeria's local elections

By Said Jameh for Magharebia in Algiers – 08/11/07

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PCampaigning began Thursday (November 8th) in Algeria's local and provincial elections, scheduled for November 29th. Twenty-three political parties and 465 independent candidates have declared their participation in the elections.

Parties and independents have fielded a total of 8,647 candidate lists, vying for a majority of seats in 1,541 municipal councils and 48 provincial councils, representing each of Algeria's 48 wilayas.

Political hopefuls have 19 days in which to persuade the nation's roughly 18 million voters, more than half of whom are women, to go to the polls.

The elections were originally scheduled for the beginning of October, but were postponed at the request of political parties because of overlap with the month of Ramadan and the beginning of the new school year. The last municipal elections were held in October 2002, when the National Liberation Front won the majority of seats.

An amendment made last summer to the electoral law restricts participation in local elections to parties that have either received at least 4% of the vote in their districts over the previous three elections or received signatures of support from at least 3% of registered voters in their electorates. Under the new standard, just nine parties satisfied the first condition; many critics perceived the government's changes to be a move against "small parties".

Fourteen of the so-called small parties have surprised the government by obtaining the necessary signatures to field candidates in the current elections.

The elections will proceed for the first time without the oversight of an independent political committee; the government said it chose to abandon the programme because each party will have representatives in the polling stations to provide the necessary monitoring.

The government and parties alike have expressed concern about voter participation, after legislative elections on May 17th recorded the lowest turnout – 35% – since the country's independence 45 years ago.

Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni urged provincial governors during a meeting in Algiers late last month to work hard to convince voters to participate.

The Interior Ministry sent letters in June to more than 4 million registered voters who did not participate in the legislative elections, asking for their reasons for not participating. The move prompted intense criticism from opposition parties, who accused the ministry of interfering in the private and personal matters of the citizens. The interior minister said the measure was intended to purge electoral lists of "falsely registered voters".

Louisa Hanoune, Secretary-General of the Workers' Party, called on the government to address the problems facing citizens in their daily lives, attributing poor voter turnout to a perceived lack of action by the authorities to correct social and economic issues.

Many Algerian voters have expressed a lack of interest in the elections, believing candidates are only after their own interests at a time when social conditions are worsening due to price rises and a decline in purchasing power in recent months, despite a national wage increase for thousands of employees in the public and private sectors.

Early projections have shown the ruling coalition, consisting of the National Liberation Front, the National Rally for Democracy and the Movement of Society for Peace are likely to retain the majority of seats in the November elections.

Two parties have said the government's modifications to the electoral law have ensured they will not threaten the ruling coalition. The Socialist Forces Front and Rally for Culture and Democracy have accused the government of rigging the elections for the benefit of the top three parties.

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    كريم دزيري 2007-11-29

    They want us to vote and know that nothing new will be offered us except some speeches and false promises. The concern of every one of them is his interests and his preoccupation is his son. By God, how do you want us to vote while we die of hunger, while billions of dollars are packed in the treasuries? We expect the new officials to steal them. How do you want us to vote while our sons and brothers are unemployed? Do you know that because of despair and the bureaucracy of the State against its people, everyone is dreaming of running away. Because we’re sure that we won’t live with dignity in our countries since dignity is absent here and there. We desert the nation against our wills looking for a job without having to give bribery, fleeing oppression, aspects of treason and misery. I know that if one of the officials reads my comment I’ll be imprisoned or rather accused of treason, yes treason because I was unable to keep quiet about what is practiced against me and against all the Algerian young people which is far from ruling, including humiliation and deprivation. Do you know: the salary of a senior employee in Algeria is 14000 dinars, and flower costs 6200 dinars. You readers can judge by yourselves. Can anyone who provides for a family of 5 all needing clothes, food and a house, rental rate in Algeria is 10000 dinars per month, I say rental because I’m aware that most Algerian people don’t have their own houses. Your brother in God Karim Dziri from Algeria.

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    عصام 2007-11-14

    The local elections underway in Algeria these days are just a running away forward. All candidate parties have no development programmes as they don't have any clear political platform to boost the economy of the country. All candidates present dry and void speeches, they hide behind the programme of the president of the republic which is not a clear programme. We see the candidates in the streets, most of them aren't political militants, have no principles and not even the national spirit. Most of them want to get the position of president of the municipality to multiply his wealth. We've lost confidence in the candidates because if this sample were to reach power, they will eat everything they come across. Then we'll cry on the vestiges of the State when crying is of no use.

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    boudjanouia 2007-11-11

    There are no parties in Algeria now that have economic, development and social platforms which can make a change and drive the country and the people forward and put things on the right track. Today we see quasi-political associations formed by some people who are seeking power and serving their own interests to the detriment of the higher interests for which the people have elected them. To the point that we see that everyone who goes into politics as dishonest and an opportunist who pursues only his narrow interests and sees the higher interests of the nation only through the narrow windows of his palaces which he built on the backs of the people who are still hiding their volcano which will erupt one day. The inertia of the political class and its nonchalance to the sufferings of the people is an unjustified negligence in front of the persistence of the State in its oppression and fighting them on all sides.

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