This week’s election in Algeria did not lead to the victory expected by the country’s Islamist parties.
Islamist parties in Algeria failed to wrest control away from the ruling majority in the country’s May 10th legislative elections. As a result, Algeria stands as an exception to the “green wave” that brought Islamist parties to power in Tunisia, Morocco and beyond.
According to the initial results that emerged on Friday (May 11th), the National Liberation Front (FLN) nearly won an outright majority with 220 seats. Collectively, Islamist parties could do no better than 59 seats.
“The people voted to punish the FLN in 1992 by shunning it in favour of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS),” said Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia on Saturday. “This time around, the people voted to escape from the dangers to national stability.”
Abdelaziz Belkhadem, general secretary of the FLN, expressed delight at the victory. “The party will forge alliances in Parliament,” he said, in order to prevent a return to a one-party system.
Reactions from the Islamist parties, who long projected their victory, were not so optimistic.
The Green Algeria Alliance called the election results “manipulation on a grand scale”, and said it would hold the president fully responsible of any proven fraud.
Abdallah Djaballah of the Front for Justice and Development (FJD) initially condemned Thursday’s vote as an “electoral charade”. He took a harsher tone on Sunday, telling AFP that the results “closed the door on change by the ballot box”.
“The Tunisian option is all that’s left for those who believe in change,” Djaballah said.
The FJD is also threatening to withdraw from Parliament after winning just seven of the 462 available seats.
Abdelmadjid Menasra of the Front for Change called the election “worse than fraud”, saying it “was a sham from the outset”. Islamist parties failed to rally voters in support of their manifestos, Menasra said, but he refused to accept their defeat.
The former FIS gave its response to the election result in a statement signed by leaders Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj. “The legislative elections highlight the deepening crisis of confidence between the people of Algeria and a corrupt regime,” they wrote.
The result came as a blow to the Islamist parties, who had hoped that the Arab Spring would spill over into Algeria.
Analyst Mounir Boudjemaa said the poll signalled a decline of political Islamism in Algeria.
“The Green Alliance is a victim of its own contradictions,” he told Magharebia. “How can a party like the MSP (Movement of Society for Peace), which was in government and decided at the last minute to go over to the opposition, remain in government? This is not credible in the eyes of the public.”
“What happened during the Arab Spring had an effect on Algerians, but not necessarily in the way the outside world expected,” said Noureddine Hakiki, a political observer.
“In Egypt, in Libya… there was change, but it took the form of regression and disorder. Algerians don’t want insecurity, they want stability”, he said.
“We’ve been there and done that with Islamism; it’s an era we’ll never forget. Everyone was deeply affected by the war. It’s a chapter that this generation doesn’t want to reopen,” Hakiki said.
The smooth running of the poll drew praise from the international observers sent to monitor it. The international community unanimously welcomed the lack of major incidents and the election of 120 women to Parliament.