Monday, 27 February 2012

Algeria: Government in panic over election

The government is in a panic over the up-coming 10 May election, and fears a massive abstention. The latest instructions being given to citizens by the government are along the lines of: “We know that many people are undecided on whom to vote for. That doesn't matter. Just go to the voting booths and get your fingers marked with the ink (dye). It lasts five days and we will be able to see who didn't vote. But, you don't have to vote. Just go to the polls to vote and get your fingers marked, but you don't then have to vote.”

In short, the government is not interested in how the votes are cast; it just wants people to register to vote to prove that there was a reasonable turnout – somewhere around 50-60%, or hopefully higher. The message also contains the veiled threat that those without 'ink on their fingers' will in some way be noted and perhaps punished.

The government's anxiety over an abstention, which would destroy its reform pretensions, were manifested by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on 23 February when he addressed a ceremony in Oran to mark the double anniversary of the nationalisation of hydrocarbons and the creation of the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA). The president said that Algeria is witnessing a critical stage on both domestic and foreign levels. The country, he said, was “going through a sensitive period both internally and externally.” He went on to say that the world was also going through a difficult period. “It requires wisdom,” he said, “in dealing with the situation.” He warned Algerians against “rumours and false information.”

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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