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Voter abstention risk worries Algeria

By Ademe Amine for Magharebia in Algiers – 26/01/12

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A few months before Algeria's legislative elections, the government is facing a serious challenge – abstention.

Never before has the fear of empty ballot boxes sparked so much alarm in Algeria. To mobilise voters, the government launched two initiatives. The ministry of religious affairs on January 22nd announced plans to instruct imams to give sermons designed to encourage worshippers to turn out en masse on the polling day.

The role of imams is to "raise the awareness of the public about the importance of going to polling stations to do their electoral duty, without pushing them in the direction of any particular party", according to Religious Affairs Minister Bouabdallah Ghlamallah.

He added, however, that imams "must not have any political affiliation if they are to accomplish their mission in full".

A few days earlier, the interior ministry started sending out text messages, saying: "Voting is the exercise of citizenship and duty."

"Personally, I am scared of this," Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said about the possibility of low participation, "since the legislative elections have not attracted large turnouts in the past."

He added that parliamentary elections "suffer from the highest rate of abstention" as opposed to local or presidential polls.

Political parties also joined the campaign.

"Get the undecided moving, wake them up and motivate them to go out to vote in large numbers, because we are worried about voter apathy," National Liberation Front (FLN) Secretary-General Abdelaziz Belkahdem said on January 21st in Oran. "The forthcoming elections will be different from previous ones because we are in a different context and an unstable environment."

"We are scared not of the Islamists, but of abstention," Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia declared in early January.

Abstention is "a real concern" and a "challenge" for politicians, who must persuade the public of the need to vote, according to Seddik Chihab, of the National Democratic Rally (RND).

For his part, Amara Benyounes, from the Union for Democracy and the Republic (UDR), called on Algerians to vote as "a huge turnout would guarantee a win for democrats and patriots".

"A high rate of abstention would help the Islamists," he said January 17th on Radio 3.

Two days later, Workers' Party Secretary-General Louisa Hanoune stressed "the need to take serious action quickly to encourage the public to vote".

As for the Islamist parties, they argue that public participation is a prerequisite for election credibility.

"We must bring an end to the alternation in power of these two parties (the RND and FLN) and ensure that the elections will be free and fair," said Bouguerra Soltani, whose Movement of Society for Peace quit Algeria's ruling coalition.

For his part, El Islah Secretary-General Hamlaoui Akouchi on January 20th urged the government to create "independent authorities to oversee the forthcoming legislative elections", which he believes is the only way of maximising the number of people who turn out to vote in May.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Anonymous 2012-5-9

    Do not vote for the Islamists. People who use religion in politics are not capable of governing a country. They want to create disorder in the country. Ali Belhadj and Abassi and the other FIS dogs are nothing but saboteurs of democracies.


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    Anonymous 2012-5-3

    To Srars- “This is a crime. Who is going to vote to legitimate this criminal government, which has destroyed the country?” Firstly, your language is criminal and is not Algerian. Secondly, the Islamists are all going to vote, and at the same time that a boycott is being called for by the former leaders of the form FIS, which was dissolved!!! They are calling for a boycott not for their troops, which already have their battle orders, but for the democratic and patriotic forces, that they judge stupid enough to follow their words while they are fugitives in a golden exile in Qatar and elsewhere. Have a little decency, sirs, you have been definitively outed!!! Voting is acting as a man and not as a subject!!! To the ballots, citizens!!!


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    Watani 2012-5-3

    To Salah Dine- You said it well! The Algerians have no other country and should defend it against their enemies from without and within (that is to say, those who are financed by powerful foreign forces, which are enemies of our people and our state, which dictate to them their agenda and which aim to subject and pillage our nation). The religion of Islam belongs to us all and should not be manipulated by any party whatsoever. This dishonesty has, in the past, led us to chaos. No! The Algerian people do not want this tragic episode to be reproduced. We have the duty before men and before God to protect our innocent children from mercenaries financed and manipulated from abroad to ruin this country, for which millions of our ancestors sacrificed themselves so that Algeria could live!!! Our duty as men is to go to the ballots on May 10th, 2012 and vote for those who are not in the pay of hostile foreign forces. Vote for patriots. Vote for those who privileged he independence of our state as much as possible in spite of the violent pressure exercised over the Third World by inhumane ultra-liberal capitalist globalization in the North and the South, which destroys the weakest and insolently enriches the richest, namely those who run the world without caring about the ballots. This furiously capitalist model, which is imposed on us by international institutions (the UN, WTO, IMF, IBRD and all the NGOs that have the same philosophy) and by wealth-stripping multinationals from the hegemonic states in an unequal and murderous balance of power. They impose on us a social model that is foreign to ours and is pagan. It idolises the market, kills man and imposes on us "Homo consommatus universalis".


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    srars 2012-5-1

    This is a crime. Who is going to go vote to legitimate this criminal government, which has destroyed the country?


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    salah dine 2012-4-28

    Hi to all the Algerian men and women- Vote! This is you country because you have no other nation. Integrate! Change the system for the future of your country! I am counting on you! - Salahdine from Tlemcen


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    'Tziri 2012-4-27

    [2] To Hadjoudj- I believe that voting is the gesture of the citizen, of the republican and of responsibility! Furthermore, the proposal that you have made is defendable, but not in form. Making citizens’ votes dependant on this profound reform of the system – to which I agree – is, moreover, not fair in principal and is even dangerous. This reform, which you proposed, should be the platform of a party, which should provide and mobilise all the necessary energy to bring it to fruition. You are not unaware that the entire political class of all stripes will fiercely oppose this and that the fight will be afterwards and will surely be long. So, let us be clear and consistent. Our obligations as citizens cannot be put on standby for any reason. Let us be many who go to the ballot on May 10th at the risk of waking up with a hangover on May 11th. He who does not move forward, moves backward, the saying goes! So let us move forward and continue to build our democracy according to our own model. And your proposal is one of the most interesting ones, which deserves reflection and a pertinent strategy and, most especially, motivated and engaged citizens to bring about such a reform...


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    'Tziri 2012-4-27

    To Hadjoudj- I agree with you on the merits, but not in form. Your proposal is defencible and I totally agree with it, but our obligation to go to the ballots cannot be dependent on this. This is a fundamental republican principal. Just like heads and tails are inseparable on a coin, the rights and obligations of the citizens of a republic work in the same way. A republican cannot demand his rights and shirk his obligations. This is not acceptable. Civic solidarity is the foundation of the republic and cannot work without this cardinal principal. Democracy is the least bad means to serve the republic on the condition that the rules of the game are not deformed and are respected by everyone – and everyone’s participation at the ballots is one of these rules. Moreover, this leaves the field open to extremists, who themselves do not care about democracy, but know to exploit it when it comes to taking power. And they do so not without defrauding the fundamentals of the democratic game, such as party financing, which is supposed to be strictly domestic. This is a basic issue of sovereignty.


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    Je vote donc je suis ! 2012-4-24

    Everyone human being answers before the Eternal for the part of the responsibility that falls upon him so long as he enjoys all his mental faculties. Voting is of course a right, but it is also a responsibility before men and before God. No one can ignore his duties to the collective, which is his enlarged family. No member of a family can exempt himself from his obligations. This is a matter of honour! Certain people – not the most democratic ones – are voting in mass and are promissing the abolishment of the democracy once they get into power. They are claiming the establishment sooner or later of a theocracy, which to them seems to be the sole path to the Third Millennia even though societies are cosmopolitan and multicultural. May everyone who feels concerned by the future of their children go fulfil their citizen’s duty so that their conscience does not torture them one day soon.


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    hadjoudj 2012-4-23

    If you want us to vote, then here is what will encourage us to do so: reduce the pay of the parliamentarians to 100,000 dinars; remove from office any person who has two absences from the parliamentary sessions; form a government that comes from the parliamentary majority; prohibit the parliamentarians from running for walis (governor); prohibit ministers from meeting with them; force the parliamentarians to hold meetings with voters, which will be recorded in minutes and will be attended by members of civil society; do away with retirement after holding the officer of legislator; do away with the Senate; replace the senate with the Prime Minister, who will be the second person in the country; all the ministers without exception should explain their agenda before the representatives of the people in a direct and uncensored debate; and all the country’s institutions should subject to the control of parliamentary commissions, whose results will be published. These are a few proposals from an Algerian who is seeking good for his country.


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    benchikh 2012-4-21

    Pushing someone to the top by voting for him or for her after then,he or she will tell you BYE BYE,comeon let us be realistic there is nothing new for Algerian elections,I could imagine it like Chicago in 1932.. the gangs power there is no goverment.


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    kamel 2012-2-10

    This is another farce. The state is absent, but wants to captain the boat again. What we desire is for our garden gnome, this bastard Bouteflika and his battalion of January-ists, to go away.


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    citoyen averti 2012-2-6

    An informed citizens is worth… May the TV inform the public – the young people and even younger people who have not registered and the people who have changed addresses – of the conditions and dates for registering to vote. Voting is a civic right and a citizen’s moral duty. In some countries, voting is obligatory. Let us all vote because abstention always benefits the extremists, who themselves are voting en masse even though they are not democrats. Let us not allow the ballot to give the advantage to those who do not respect the people or the laws! Let us be responsible by barring the route to political, economic, social, cultural and security regression with our voter cards in the ballot box! Let us vote!


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    Moumen 2012-2-5

    Yes, Omar, I agree with your point of view, but daily life has its emergencies, which compel us to action and pragmatics. Taking small steps is better than standing still because of idealism. Clearly put, let us go register to vote if we have not already done so and let us vote usefully for those who will not use our vote against our rights and our freedoms and will not risk the independence of our country and the future of our children. The demagogues who promise paradise to those who pay allegiance to them and hell to those who oppose them are not the best candidates. Quite the contrary, they are cheating from the start on the fundamentals – Islam, which belongs to all the people – and are getting themselves financed by the enemies of Islam. So much dishonesty demonstrates that they are looking for power for the basest reasons, and they will not fool the Algerians for a second time. These extremists are not financed by Israel and the EU for the good of our peoples! May the people who love this country unite and face these shams, who want to get seat in power by walking over corpses. Let us vote en masse!


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    Djazaîri 2012-2-4

    To Dalia- There you a have it: you have asked a real question relative to democracy. When the Islamists go to vote en masse, it is never to cast a blank vote, but when the democrats do not abstain from voting, they sometimes vote blank on the ground – and that is all the difference between an ideal vote (or/and a blank vote) and abstaining. There are "useful" votes, which make all of the difference. So, if politics are the least bad peaceful means that we know to change society and the always imperfect economic and social order and to improve the living conditions for the greatest number of people (namely, the most fragile people), then how do we renounce this power, which gives us "useful" voting? If we prefer to sink into idealism, then we need to prepare for a darker tomorrow. Not that it should be prohibited to dream – quite the contrary – but the urgency of daily life requires a pragmatic and beneficial stance lest we have menacing nihilism. Humans are as such, with big and small imperfections. Democratic culture is taught in the school of history and of life, and we have the right to expect the best lives if we accept contributing a little bit. Every time that we dodge our civic prerogative, the free open is systematically occupied by the most mobilised, “motivated” and aggressive forces, which is to say the extremists. This is a fact of human reality. So, what do we ultimately want? Is it to philosophise about the ideal election or to contribute to progress – perhaps slow, but certain and always better than the chaos guaranteed by extremes? The experiences of Algeria in its tragic episodes dictates that each and every man and woman take responsibility, and that includes the state.


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    omar 2012-2-3

    Voting is an act of citizenship in a democratic country because voting selects the best of the candidates. But questions have arisen because everything is blurry. Are the parties that do not enforce democracy among themselves truly democratic? Are the candidates properly chosen by the party based on an assessment of known, pertinent criteria, themselves approved by the entirety of its supporters? Are the candidates that run successful in their family and professional lives and are they ready to sacrifice them for the national and people’s cause? Are the elections monitored before, during and after the vote? Today, nothing is clear. We need more concrete measures to reassure the voters because making promises is not enough. True nationalists and democrats are the ones who accept giving up their place when they realise that the other person is also an Algerian, nationalist and democrat and is more competent. Let us not waste time. Let us give up our place to our best so that everyone will benefit. Long live Algeria!


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    Jeune électeur 2012-1-31

    60% abstention is the norm for our elections, but it is time that the democrats of all walks – men and women – seriously mobilise themselves because abstention in our countries exclusively benefits the Islamists. Do not make the mistake of counting on the imams to encourage people to go vote. Firstly, this is not their role. Secondly, this is the trap they want us to fall in a second time. May the mosque stay out of politics. Thirdly, the media should make the public aware by approaching the subject and opening up debate. The TV, radio, newspapers and Internet will fully work. Fourthly, may everyone think about going to register as voters in the community (APC) if they have not already done so. Fifthly, voting is a civic act that is part of democratic culture. NB: the paradox is that the Islamists are very mobilised whenever it has to do with going to the ballot. Let us rise to the challenge! A word to the wise!


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    dalia 2012-1-31

    Vote to express yourself and not just to choose. In order to put the act of voting back at the centre of democracy, it is paramount to count ballots left blank as an expression of suffrage. This is the point of the bill that we are asking them to please adopt. We must get this first message across: the more we are, the more our success is ensured.


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    chermat nono 2012-1-30

    The elections do not interest us. Let us be serious. This is a scam. They are so awesome and experienced at fraud that if only a few people vote, they will validate the election. As such, this election will have no impact on the future of the country. All they have done since 1962 is defend their interests. Stop trying to fool us with these elections. These elections are their elections in order to be able to dilapidate the country by establishing this form of “legality” with a mercenary army that was never able to meet the expectations of the people. We need to move on to something else. The rest is blah blah blah.


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    أبو عقبه 2012-1-30

    There is no good expected from elections. In Algeria nothing will change at all. This is because those who control the state are a gang that cannot be removed.


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    عايشي رضا 2012-1-29

    Whom should we vote for? Is it acceptable to elect someone who practices regionalism and he is a member of discrimination or someone who emptied reforms from their content, someone who doesn’t even have a platform to present, who made those who were refuges masters of Algerians, looted the funds of people or didn’t preserve national identity? No way!


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    samia 2012-1-29

    I don’t want to vote.


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    abdeslam 2012-1-28

    We want the fall of the regime.


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    عبد الغني 2012-1-27

    This is an excellent site.


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