Algeria’s closely-watched May 10th parliamentary election will help clarify the political currents popular enough to sufficiently move the north African country towards a new era in its agitated history. They are also perceived as a rehearsal for the country’s presidential election where the stakes will be much greater. In Algeria, the President holds a far more prominent role than many other state institution. The elections have come at a time of great regional uncertainty and instability following the Arab Spring that swept away regimes in neighbouring Tunisia and in Egypt. In what is certainly an effort to safeguard the country from similar disorder, 75-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announced democratic reforms and the holding of anticipated parliamentary elections as part of an overall transition process. These reforms were welcomed by the international community as a step in the right direction.
Algerian elections have often been the subject of allegations of widespread fraud. In an effort to rein in this, over 500 foreign observers have been invited to increase the overall credibility of the poll. Algeria’s vitriolic private press however has remained sceptical as to the state’s real ability and will to curtail fraud and wrongdoing. The return of Algeria’s oldest opposition leader, Hocine Ait Ahmed, and his Front des Forces Socialistes party (FFS) after years of boycotting elections and a self-imposed exile, is perhaps a sign that a peaceful reform process might be taking place in the country.