Algeria's presidential election dominated by domestic issues

Early poll has been called for September but many voters are disillusioned with the candidates available

A man prepares to cast his ballot at a polling station in Bouchaoui, on the western outskirts of Algeria's capital Algiers, on June 12, 2021 during the 2021 parliamentary elections. Polls opened in Algeria for a parliamentary election overshadowed by a crackdown on a long-running protest movement that has campaigned for a mass boycott. Pro-government parties have urged a big turnout for the "crucial vote" which they hope will restore stability after two years of turmoil since the forced resignation of veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. / AFP / RYAD KRAMDI
Powered by automated translation

As Algeria gears up for its presidential election in September, it is working to solidify its role as a major power in Africa and, ultimately, establish itself as a key player on the global scene, particularly through its seat at the UN Security Council.

Due to continuing conflicts in neighbouring North Africa and Sahel countries, namely Niger, Mali and Libya, Algeria has repeatedly tried to act as a mediator among the conflicting parties in these countries.

Last month it was announced that an early presidential poll would be held on September 7 and the National Independent Elections Authority will be called to convene from June 8 to begin official preparations.

In an interview with state-owned media last week, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune dismissed any suggestions of a hidden agenda related to his declaration of an earlier election date, saying the move was strictly "technical". He clarified that September traditionally marks the period for presidential elections in the country, noting that the 2019 poll, held in December of that year, was an exception due to the political circumstances at the time.

Following the resignation of the late president Abdelaziz Bouteflike in 2019, and months of protests demanding reforms that caused an unstable political scene, it was rendered difficult to hold elections on the usual date of September and was pushed instead to nearer the end of the year.

No announcement has yet been made by the incumbent about his intention to run for a second term.

"These elections are an indication of Algeria's stability, its attempt to finish its institutional building and its assumption of its responsibility as a regional actor," Algerian affairs and security expert, Ahmed Mizab, told The National.

“Strengthening the region’s capabilities and ensuring its resilience to rising crises is among the top priorities that are expected to take centre stage for any candidate during these elections."

Almost 24 million eligible Algerians in more than 58 governorates across the country are expected to vote. In excess of 13.000 polling centres will be in use. In its most recent legislative elections in 2021, Algeria registered its lowest participation rate in history, with only 23 per cent of voters showing up.


Despite Algeria’s geopolitical importance in the region and its rise as an international player following its mandate as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the nation still faces several domestic challenges.

Official figures indicate a tough economic situation, with a rise in public spending and a budgetary deficit of almost $45 billion.

US-based think tank, the Middle East Institute (MEI), says such challenges are expected to be a "key priority for any presidential candidate in the next few months".

"The difficult financial situation of the public treasury will inevitably require a national dialogue between the authorities and various economic actors over how to reform the current economic model," MEI said in an analysis.

These remarks are no surprise since experts have repeatedly highlighted the rigidity of Algeria’s economic model, which has remained almost unchanged for decades. Algeria has continued to spend most of its oil and gas money on subsidies and regulation of the private sector.

The question of freedom also presents a significant challenge.

Since taking power in 2019, and despite the pro-democracy Hirak movement, Algerians continued to face repercussions with many opposition voices from politicians, activists and journalists facing trials due to their personal stances towards the current regime.

Despite these domestic challenges, Algerians feel they have limited options in the September elections. According to MEI, this is mainly because "all sides of the opposition lack perspective and seem unable to provide an alternative to the current administration".

Updated: April 02, 2024, 11:33 AM