Algerian campaign haunted by money scandals

2017-04-15 18:46
(Anis Belghoul, AP)

(Anis Belghoul, AP)

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Algiers - Algerian politicians have kicked off their campaign for parliamentary elections next month and the biggest campaign issue is voter apathy, in a country where low oil prices are squeezing the energy-driven economy; young people see few job prospects and authorities have struggled to keep Islamic extremism at bay.

Algeria's 22 million voters are also worried about the health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since a 2013 stroke.

Analysts warn that many people may stay away from voting on May 4 because of a long-running distrust of politics - a sentiment deepened by dirty money scandals during the campaign.

The leading parties are trying hard to get out the vote for the election, when 63 parties and many independent lists are competing for 462 seats in the lower house of parliament.

Economic crisis

Candidates are meeting voters in cafes and clothing shops and planting flowers in an Algiers neighbourhood to win support.

"We have to vote massively to reinforce political and security stability in the country and offer support for President Bouteflika," said Djamal Ould Abbas, head of the governing National Liberation Front party (FLN), at his first rally this week in Khenchla, 500km east of Algiers.

The RND party, allied with the government, argues that a high turnout is needed to boost the legitimacy of the army in its fight against extremists. The Algerian Popular Movement party argues that high turnout is important to give the parliament a mandate to tackle the country's economic crisis.

Low energy prices in Algeria, a major gas producer, pushed the outgoing parliament to make unpopular decisions such as raising taxes and freezing public sector salaries. Diversifying the economy is a key priority for the next parliament.

Opposition parties, meanwhile, want high turnout to challenge the long-ruling FLN. While the FLN is expected to keep its parliamentary majority, the legislative elections are an important gauge of political shifts at a time when the president's health is a widespread concern.

Read more on:    abdelaziz bouteflika  |  algeria  |  elections  |  west africa

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