The constitution mandates presidential elections every five years, and there are no presidential term limits. The Ministry of Interior maintains oversight of the election and voting processes. There is no independent electoral commission.
Recent Elections: Algeria’s presidential elections took place on April 17, and voters re-elected President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fourth term. Although he did not personally campaign, Bouteflika won approximately 81 percent of the votes, while his main rival and former prime minister, Ali Benflis, placed second with slightly more than 12 percent. The youngest candidate, Abdelaziz Belaid, was third with approximately 3 percent of the votes. The only female candidate and leader of the Workers’ Party, Louisa Hanoune, placed fourth and received slightly more than 1 percent.
Several hundred international election observers from the United Nations, Arab League, African Union, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation monitored voting. Foreign observers characterized the elections as largely peaceful but pointed to low voter turnout and a high rate of ballot invalidity. El Watan, a large, opposition-leaning daily newspaper, reported that almost 10 percent of ballots cast were invalid. The Interior Ministry did not provide observers with voter registration lists.
On April 22, the president of the Constitutional Council, Mourad Medelci, announced voter participation in the elections was just under 51 percent, a sharp drop from the slightly more than 74 percent turnout during the previous presidential election in 2009. From a population of approximately 37 million persons and 23 million registered voters, 12 million individuals cast ballots at an estimated 50,000 polling stations. Officials recorded a higher voter turnout of 82 percent in the western province of Relizane, while the Berber provinces of Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia recorded 20 percent and approximately 23 percent, respectively. Official voter turnout in Algiers was an estimated 37 percent.
Ali Benflis rejected the results and announced that fraud marred the elections. He appealed to the Constitutional Council without result. A coalition of Islamic and secular opposition parties boycotted the election, describing it as a masquerade and asserting that President Bouteflika was unfit to run due to his health. Several candidates withdrew from the race claiming that the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
The protest movement Barakat staged peaceful demonstrations across the country. During a rally on April 16 in Algiers, riot police beat dozens of Barakat protesters.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The Ministry of Interior must approve political parties before they can operate legally.
The government maintained undue media influence and used public funds for campaign purposes. Security forces used violence to disperse political opposition rallies and interfered with the right to organize. Authorities prevented civil society participation in election monitoring by refusing to provide the necessary accreditation.
Pursuant to the constitution, all parties must have a “national base.” A party must have received 4 percent of the vote or at least 2,000 votes in 25 provinces in one of the last three legislative elections to participate in national elections, making it very difficult to create new political parties. It is illegal for parties to be based on religion, ethnicity, gender, language, or region.
The law does not place significant restrictions on voter registration, but implementation of voter registration and identification laws proved inconsistent and confusing during elections held during the year.
Membership in the Islamic Salvation Front, a political party banned since 1992, remained illegal. The law also bans political party ties to nonpolitical associations and regulates party financing and reporting requirements. According to the law, political parties may not receive direct or indirect financial or material support from any foreign parties. The law also stipulates the collection of resources from contributions by the party’s members, donations, and revenue from its activities, in addition to possible state funding.
Individuals and groups attempting officially to form new political parties, including the unrecognized Pole for Change movement founded by Ali Benflis, reported that as of December the Interior Ministry did not grant licenses to operate legally, despite having submitted all necessary paperwork.
Participation of Women and Minorities: The law requires that the government promote political rights for women by encouraging increased female representation within elected assemblies. The law mandates that 30 percent of all candidates on electoral tickets be women. In accordance with this provision, of the 462 candidates elected to parliament in 2012, 147 were women, increasing their rate of representation from 8 percent in 2007 to 31 percent.
Seven women held seats in the cabinet with the portfolios of national education, telecommunications, culture, environment, national solidarity, tourism, and handicraft. A woman also led the Workers Party. Four of 1,514 mayors were women.
Persons with disabilities reported impediments to voting due to voting centers’ lack of accessible features.
The ethnic Amazigh (Berber) population of approximately 10 million participated freely and actively in the political process and represented more than one-third of the government.