Algeria Constitutional Referendum: November 1, 2020 and Early Legislative Elections: Possibly in 2020

Protesters in Algeria’s capital Algiers on March 22, 2019 – the fifth Friday of protests that would continue for over a year. Demonstrators called for reforms, including democratic elections in Algeria. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Anistmz (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Freedom House Rating

Not Free
Government Type
Presidential Republic
43 million
Early Legislative Elections
2020 (proposed – otherwise due by May 2022)
Local Elections
November 2022 (due)
Presidential Election
2024 (due)
Presidential Election
December 12, 2019
Local Elections
November 23, 2017
Legislative Elections
May 4, 2017

Algerian authorities have proposed holding early legislative elections before the end of 2020, following a constitutional referendum scheduled for November 1, 2020.

Political Context

The upcoming referendum and possible early elections in Algeria are happening in the context of the Hirak protest movement, in which Algerians protested weekly throughout the country for over a year (stopping only due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Protesters called for, among other things, democratic elections in Algeria. Furthermore, COVID-19 continues to create challenges, above all a troubled economy.

A bit of background: Algerian politics have for a long time been dominated by “Le Pouvoir,” a small group of elite from the military and the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party. 

The Controversial 2019 Presidential Election in Algeria

In the 2019 presidential election, incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, aged 82 and unable to walk or talk, was nevertheless going to run for a fifth term. However, tens of thousands of Algerians protested in the streets for two months. Bouteflika subsequently resigned, under pressure from the military, and did not run in the election, which ultimately took place in December 2019.

All five 2019 presidential candidates had ties to the Bouteflika regime. Ultimately, former prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune won with nearly 60 percent of the vote. However, turnout was low, and protesters said the vote was neither free nor fair. Moreover, the army remains the real center of power. Although the government has prosecuted some members of the Bouteflika regime for corruption, the power dynamic remains largely unchanged.

Over a Year of Protests

Consequently, protests continued until March 2020, when the government demanded they stop, invoking COVID-19. Moreover, activists continue to face arrest and harassment by the authorities. 

Algeria’s 2020 Constitutional Referendum

On November 1, 2020, Algerians will vote on a new constitution that would enshrine presidential term limits and increase the powers of the parliament and the prime minister. The government is touting it as being the answer to the demands of Hirak movement.

However, some activists do not agree, and see the new constitution as a cop-out that would simply enshrine the old political system. In other words, many opposition supporters believe the new constitution to be an empty gesture and will vote against it. For example, the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s Algerian affiliate and the biggest opposition party in parliament, has said they will encourage their members to vote against the new constitution.

Meanwhile, Tebboune has floated the idea of holding early parliamentary elections after the referendum.

Curated News and Analysis

Al-Monitor (October 12, 2020): Algerian activist gets 10 years in prison for ‘inciting atheism’

Simon Speakman Cordall, Al-Monitor (October 5, 2020): Algeria cracks down on press as protest movement persists

Adam Nossiter, New York Times (October 4, 2020): Hopes Fade for New Political Course in Algeria a Year After Popular Uprising

AFP (October 3, 2020): Constitutional vote for ‘New Republic’ splits Algeria

Stratfor (September 30, 2020): Algeria: Opposition Party Urges Supporters to Vote Against Constitutional Changes in Upcoming Referendum

AP (September 21, 2020): Algeria leader says early parliament vote before year’s end

The Economist (July 4, 2020): Algeria’s protest movement considers how and when to come back

Amel Boubekeur, European Council on Foreign Relations (February 27, 2020): Demonstration effects: How the Hirak protest movement is reshaping Algerian politics

M. Tahir Kilavuz and Sharan Grewal, Brookings Institution (February 26, 2020): Algerians have been protesting for a year. Here’s what you need to know

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content, and their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here.

Updated October 13, 2020

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