Inside Story

Is Algeria immune to the ‘Arab Spring’?

As the old ruling party wins a new parliamentary majority, we ask if change has bypassed Algeria.

Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front won almost half of the 462 seats in the Algerian parliament in Thursday’s parliamentary elections.

[In terms of] reforms I think the Algerian authorities have introduced these kinds of reforms not necessarily to implement a democratic transition but it was basically window-dressing ….”

– Youcef Bouandel, an international affairs professor at Qatar University

But will this new majority for the old ruling party mean that Algeria is now immune to the ‘Arab Spring’?

While the National Liberation Front – which has ruled Algeria since independence from France in the early 1960s – won 220 seats, the National Democratic Rally came second with 68 seats in the National People’s Assembly.

The Green Alliance – which had been widely predicted to do well – secured 48 seats. That is just three-quarters of the number it won in the last elections in 2007 – bucking the trend that has seen religious parties gain power across North Africa after the ‘Arab Spring’.

The Green Alliance says the elections were rigged to keep it out of power in a country that has experienced decades of violence between radical groups and government security forces.

But Western countries and international monitors have largely praised the vote as a step in the right direction.

Hanafi Wajih, the head of the Arab League’s observer mission, said: “The election was free and transparent and the Algerian people have expressed their choice without coercion.”

Unfortunately the good Algeria for the West is a weak Algeria and having it weak is by sponsoring diplomatically, helping politically, supporting even militarily and by other means this regime.

– Mohamed Larbi Zitout, the former Algerian deputy ambassador to Libya

Jose Ignacio Salafranca, the EU mission’s monitor-in-chief, noted some shortcomings but said: “There were more transparency criteria than in previous elections.”

And Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, praised the vote and, in particular, the high number of women elected as “a welcome step in Algeria’s progress toward democratic reform”.

Prior to the elections, the government had portrayed the parliamentary contest as Algeria’s ‘Spring’ – inviting 500 international observers and promising that the vote would be the freest in 20 years.

But has the spirit of change witnessed in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East bypassed Algeria? Will the ruling party’s success now make it less likely to introduce change? And has the government, as the opposition insists, missed an unprecedented opportunity for a peaceful political transition to democracy?

Joining Inside Story, with presenter Stephen Cole, to discuss these issues are: Mohamed Larbi Zitout, the former Algerian deputy ambassador to Libya; Youcef Bouandel, a professor of International Affairs at Qatar University; and Malek Serrai, an international economist and former economic adviser to the Algerian president and a former regional adviser on international finance and trade for the UN.

“We dislike what happened in Libya and we refuse to follow because we had our problem in 1998 … we already lost 200,000 people [in the civil war] we cannot again go through this kind of problem. We are really looking for security and stability.”

Malek Serrai, an international economist


  • The ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party won 220 of 462 seats in parliament
  • It is the country’s first election since the Arab Spring swept the region
  • An estimated 25,800 candidates competed for the parliamentary seats
  • There were 44 parties, 21 of them newly created, who campaigned for seats
  • Voters cast their ballots at more than 48,000 polling stations
  • An alliance of conservative parties only won 66 seats in parliament
  • Algeria’s interior ministry reported a 42 per cent voter turnout
  • Officials said the vote was the most transparent ever and Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the president, described it as the dawn of a new era
  • About 500 foreign election observers including from the EU, the African Union and the Arab League monitored the vote