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)
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June 12, 2021
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Algeria will hold snap elections on June 12, 2021, following more than two years of protests by the Hirak movement. However, the government’s election plan has not actually satisfied the Hirak, who continue to take to the streets and have decided to boycott the elections. The absence of the Hirak, who are mostly secular, from the elections has paved the way for Islamist parties to become the main opposition.
These elections follow more than two years of protests by 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. However, the government’s election plan has not actually satisfied the Hirak, who continue to take to the streets and have decided to boycott the elections. The absence of the Hirak, who are mostly secular, from the elections has paved the way for Islamist parties to become the main opposition.
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.
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.
On November 1, 2020, Algerians passed a new constitution enshrining presidential term limits and increase the powers of the parliament and the prime minister. The government touted 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 simply enshrines the old political system. In other words, many opposition supporters believe the new constitution to be an empty gesture.
Curated News and Analysis
Abdelkader Cheref, The New Arab (May 26, 2021): Algeria’s Hirak movement returns in force ahead of elections
Al Jazeera (May 22, 2021): Hundreds arrested as Algeria cracks down on protest movement
Africanews (May 21, 2021): Algeria legislative elections: Campaigns begin
AFP (May 18, 2021): Algeria jails 31 protesters
Committee to Protect Journalists (May 17, 2021): Algerian police arrest at least 16 journalists, reporter Kenza Khattou remains in detention
AFP (May 15, 2021): Algerian police block pro-democracy demonstration, detain journalists
Arzeki Said, The Africa Report (May 13, 2021): Algeria dinar devaluation sparks fresh wave of social unrest
Malia Bouattia, The New Arab (May 13, 2021): Algeria’s Hirak is back, and it has a secret weapon
Lisa Schlein, Voice of America (May 12, 2021): Freedom of Speech, Assembly Under Attack in Algeria, UN Warns
Reuters (May 10, 2021): Algeria to ban unauthorised protests in move seen as targeting popular Hirak movement
Ivana Saric, Axios (May 9, 2021): Algeria restricts street protests
Al Jazeera (May 3, 2021): Algeria’s Tebboune urges dialogue amid mounting social anger
AFP (April 29, 2021): Algeria arrests top opposition figure weeks ahead of election
Lamine Chikhi, Reuters (April 21, 2021): Algerian Islamists eye first election win since civil war
AP (April 15, 2021): Algeria protesters at crossroads as Islamists take spotlight
AFP (April 4, 2021): Algerian opposition party to boycott legislative poll
AFP (March 26, 2021): Protesters arrested at Algiers pro-democracy demonstration
AFP (March 13, 2021): Thousands protest in Algiers after election date announced
Anthony Skinner, Al-Monitor (March 12, 2021): Algeria’s Islamist parties failing to inspire
DW (March 3, 2021): Algeria: Protests resurge despite COVID restrictions
Amnesty International (February 22, 2021): Algeria: Repressive tactics used to target Hirak activists two years on
Aomar Ouali, AP (February 22, 2021): Thousands of Algerian activists mark second year of protest
François Picard, France24 (February 22, 2021): Revolution on hold? Algeria’s pro-democracy movement seeks second wind
Rayane Anser, openDemocracy (November 13, 2020): How Algeria’s new regime won a referendum but lost legitimacy
Dalia Ghanem, Qantara (November 16, 2020): Tebboune’s ‘New Algeria’ looks a lot like the old Algeria
Simon Speakman Cordall, Al-Monitor (October 5, 2020): Algeria cracks down on press as protest movement persists
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
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
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Updated June 7, 2021