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World

Algerians shun parliamentary election under protest boycott

  • Hamid, a 60-year-old office manager, said he voted for the sake of "stability".
13 Jun 2021

ALGIERS: Algeria voted Saturday in a parliamentary election boycotted by the long-running Hirak protest movement and marked by a high abstention rate.

Pro-government parties had urged a big turnout for the "crucial vote" hoping to restore stability after two years of turmoil since the ouster of veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika under pressure from the protests.

The Hirak movement, which had held weekly demonstrations for reform until they were effectively banned last month, rejected the polls as a "sham".

Seven leading protest movement figures were arrested ahead of polling day while police deployed heavily in the capital Algiers to preempt any attempt to rally.

Turnout was just 30.2 percent, the lowest in at least 20 years for legislative elections, electoral commission chief Mohamed Chorfi said after polls closed.

By comparison, turnout was 35.7 percent for the last legislative vote in 2017.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was elected on an official turnout of less than 40 percent in late 2019, put a brave face on the low turnout.

"For me, it's not the turnout percentage that's important, it's whether the lawmakers that the people elect have sufficient legitimacy," he said after casting his vote in Algiers.

The shape of the new assembly should emerge on Sunday but it will be 96 hours before official results are announced, Chorfi said.

In Algiers, only a trickle of people was seen entering polling stations, AFP correspondents said.

"I've never voted, and this time it's no different. I don't believe it would change anything," said Fatiha, a shopkeeper in her 50s.

Hamid, a 60-year-old office manager, said he voted for the sake of "stability".

In the opposition stronghold of Kabylie, a mainly Berber region east of Algiers, most polling stations in the main cities of Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou remained closed, the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) and the CNLD prisoners' right groups said.

Scuffles broke out in Kabylie, where ballot boxes were ransacked, and security forces detained dozens of people, the two groups said, with the CNLD also reporting arrests in Algiers and the nearby city of Boumerdes.