ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) – Algerians will vote Saturday’s election for mayors and regional leaders amid widespread concern and frustration over rising prices for basic goods, housing and healthcare.
The government hopes the election will confirm support for President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who won the election after his predecessor was overthrown in 2019 by pro-democratic protests backed by the army chief. But many Algerians see the leadership of Tebboune only as a cosmetic change and are deeply disillusioned with politics.
Around 23 million registered voters will be asked on Saturday to elect mayors and representatives in regional assemblies. More than 134,000 candidates apply for the various seats.
However, around 300,000 applications were rejected by the electoral authorities, accused of having links to criminal circles or “dirty money”. Opposition parties protested the move as being unfair.
Turnout at polling stations in Algiers appeared to be low on Saturday morning.
Candidates traveled in caravans to meet voters, but the campaign as a whole met with widespread indifference. Algerians “don’t have the heart to vote if the daily bread and milk cartons become problematic for most of them due to the collapse in purchasing power,” said sociologist Nasser Djabbi.
The parliament, in which Tebbounes party has the most seats, recently passed a budget for 2022 that cuts subsidies for some basic goods as well as for housing, health and education. Teachers and unions have organized strikes to protest against rising prices.
The party leader Jil Djadid (New Generation) urged voters to participate, saying, “The higher the turnout, the stronger and more legitimate the future elected officials will be to carry out their election manifestos.”
Opposition leader Mohcine Bélabbas, president of the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, described the entire election process as “illegal”.
The elections are also taking place as Algeria’s relations with France and Morocco are currently facing unprecedented tensions.