The ruling Socialists won elections on Sunday in Algeria, extending their 40-year grip on power. The National Rally for Democracy (RND) and the Congress for the Republic won a majority of the seats in the 577-member Constituent Assembly, the electoral body that will be responsible for choosing a new president. The elections were the first nationwide vote since the 2011 Arab Spring.
Polls opened in all but nine of Algeria’s departments at 7 a.m. local time, but turnout was reportedly extremely low. The government has not announced any figures, but officials and independent observers said they expected the elections to be peaceful, and with deep historical ties between ruling parties and the military, they were believed to go smoothly.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused authorities of clamping down on opposition figures, particularly in cities north of Algiers. The country’s progressive highest court, the Court of Cassation, issued a decision on Jan. 1 striking down some restrictions, including the requirement that the registrar of assemblies register all potential voters in advance of an election. That, for some, might have made the voting process easier.
Despite repeated appeals to the government for political reform, the parliamentary elections marked a close to a decade of political stagnation in Algeria, where more than 200,000 people were killed in a civil war. The government has pushed the idea that it is working to modernize and liberate the country, and has held conferences on human rights and civil society alongside other tactics to get Algerians to vote. The immediate result of the elections was expected to be the same as a February 2017 vote, in which the same parties won more than two-thirds of the seats.
The incoming president must be chosen in 2020, when Algeria also holds presidential elections.
Read the full story at Al-Ahram and the Washington Post.
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