Algeria overturned the Arab Spring’s revolutionary narrative with elections that bolstered the longtime ruling party and dashed Islamists’ hopes of gaining power. The vote did something else, too: It burnished Algeria’s democratic image with Western allies who rely on it to fight terrorism and supply natural gas. Few people turned out to vote in last week’s elections, and the result did little to boost Algerian rulers’ legitimacy at home. But analysts say Algeria needed to hold elections to show it was at least somewhat democratic in the midst of a region-wide push for greater freedoms. “Algeria has satisfactory relations with Washington and Paris,” said Hugh Roberts, an expert on the country at Boston’s Tufts University. “It needs to do well enough (with reform) not to embarrass its Western partners, and that’s what it’s done.”
In contrast to the uprisings and game-changing elections that have taken place elsewhere in North Africa over the past year, the political system in Algeria has been remarkably stable, if not stagnant. The regularly scheduled parliamentary elections produced a win for the ruling party, the National Liberation Front that won independence from the French in 1962, giving it the most seats since Algeria began experimenting with multiparty politics in 1990.
The results have prompted outraged cries of fraud from opposition groups across the Algerian political spectrum, including Islamists parties, which did uniformly poorly. And that further lowers popular confidence in a political system wracked by apathy.