Campaigning for Algeria’s May 4 parliamentary elections got off to a muted start on Sunday, with the public showing little interest in the poll despite government efforts to persuade voters to participate.
It’s the first election since the legislature’s powers were boosted by amendments to the constitution last year.
Over the next three weeks, 12,000 candidates will vie for 462 seats in the People’s National Assembly, with 23 million Algerians registered to vote.
But in Algiers, few parties posted candidate lists on the boards reserved for them.
Many people walked past the boards without a glance.
“Every time, we are promised wonders and marvels, then: nothing,” said Fatma Zohra, a widow who said she is struggling to provide for her three children.
Zohra added that she is unlikely to vote.
“I don’t have time for that. I work at a company in the morning and in private homes in the afternoon,” she said.
Analyst Rachid Tlemcani predicted a “morose” election campaign and the lowest turnout in the country’s electoral history, blaming “the economic and political situation and the fact that the public is fed up”.
Government-sponsored advertisements play in a continuous loop on Algerian television in a bid to attract a larger turnout than about the 43 percent who voted in last legislative poll in 2012.
But Tlemcani says the public is tired of quarrels between political parties.
“Once elected, candidates disappear completely,” he said. “Voters are not idiots.”
Algeria’s parliament has been dominated by the National Liberation Front (FLN) since gaining independence in 1962.
The FLN ruled in a single party system until the early 1990s.
Today, with its coalition ally the Rally for National Democracy (RND), the FLN has a majority of seats in the house.
Observers say they are likely to keep their majority after other parties said they would boycott the polls.
In the last election, Islamist parties hoped to ride to victory on top of their movement’s achievements during the Arab Spring.
But they registered their worst score since Algeria’s first multi-party poll in the early 1990s.
This year, they have merged or formed alliances in order to increase their chances.
Between them, Algeria’s political parties have scheduled more than 1,800 rallies across the country.
Whether that brings out voters is yet to be seen.
“Supporters of the ruling parties will vote,” said Mohamed, a trade unionist. “So if we want to turn things around, we must vote.”