Ruling elite parties claim victory in Algerian elections with 23% turnout

The vote was boycotted by the long-running Hirak protest movement.

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Algeria's long-dominant National Liberation Front won the most seats at weekend parliamentary elections, it was announced on Tuesday.

But the FLN had a significantly reduced number, following the country's lowest ever turnout of 23 per cent, the electoral board said.

The vote was boycotted by the long-running Hirak protest movement and followed a string of arrests of opposition figures.

There was also a heavy police presence in the capital Algiers to pre-empt any attempts by opposition groups to hold rallies.

It was another missed opportunity for change and democracy

Only 5.6 million of more than 24 million eligible voters lodged a ballot at Saturday's polls, with more than a million invalid votes cast, the ANIE electoral board said in provisional figures.

According to the initial results, the FLN led with 105 out of 407 seats, electoral commission chief Mohamed Chorfi said.

This result is better than expected for the FLN, which emerged from Algeria's long struggle for independence from France in 1962 and was the country's sole party until the first multi-party elections in 1990.
The party of veteran former leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika had been considered moribund after the ailing president resigned under pressure from the army following weeks of mass Hirak protests in early 2019.

If the results are confirmed, the FLN will have lost more than 50 seats and will control just a quarter of the new assembly.

Independents came second with 78 seats, while the Movement of Society for Peace, a moderate Islamist party, came third with 64.

The Democratic National Rally, a traditional ally of the FLN and also linked to Mr Bouteflika's rule, took 57 seats.

Ahead of the official results, the MSP had said its candidates were in the lead in most regions, warning against "numerous efforts to alter the results".

But Mr Chorfi said that "the foundations of this parliament have been built in total freedom and transparency for the people".

Said Salhi, the vice president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights dismissed the poll.

"The results, unsurprisingly, came from a closed election that was held in a climate of repression.

"It was another missed opportunity for change and democracy," he said.

Louisa Dris-Ait Hamadouche, a political science professor at the University of Algiers, said the record low turnout "shows to what extent this election, like those that preceded it, are not the solution to this crisis".

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, himself elected on an official turnout of less than 40 per cent in late 2019, had put on a brave face regarding the high rate of abstention and ruined ballots.

"For me, the turnout isn't important. What's important is whether the lawmakers that the people elect have enough legitimacy," Mr Tebboune said on Sunday.

Hirak, which apart from a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic had held twice-weekly demonstrations for reform until they were effectively banned last month, had already rejected the polls as a "sham".

After a quota system introduced in 2012 was abolished, Algeria's next parliament will now be almost exclusively male, with only 34 women – out of 8,000 candidates – elected, compared to 146 women in the previous assembly.

Hirak had boycotted the vote, as with a constitutional referendum in November that gave additional powers to the presidency and the army.

But voting day was mainly calm, except in the northern region of Kabylie, where ballot boxes were ransacked and security forces detained dozens of people, rights groups said.

Two prominent journalists detained on the eve of the election were released on Saturday. Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi condemned their arrests as "arbitrary".