By Fidet Mansour
Just over two months before Algeria’s legislative poll, the government and political parties are mounting a vocal campaign to secure a high turnout.
The battle for voter participation in the May 10th election did not spare mosques. A top religious affairs official issued an instruction to imams to encourage citizens to vote through their sermons, said Ada Fellahi, an advisor to the minister of religious affairs.
“Mosques cannot be kept out of the wave of political activity sweeping the country,” Fellahi told Magharebia. Although imams are allowed to lead an anti-boycott campaign, there are serious sanctions for promoting any party, he said.
Youth and Sports Minister Hachemi Djiar on Monday (February 27th) announced the launch of an awareness campaign which will criss-cross through more than 13 wilayas.
“Young people must not remain on the margins of politics,” the minister said in a press statement. “It doesn’t matter who will get their vote; the important thing is that they vote.”
As part of its massive pro-vote campaign, the government has used text messages to instruct citizens how to obtain their polling cards and remind them that voting is a “national duty”.
In his February 23rd speech in Oran, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika likened the importance of the upcoming elections to that of Algeria’s war of independence.
“I know what I’m talking about,” he said. “These elections will be decisive for the future of the country.”
Political parties have also stepped up their activities.
National Democratic Rally (RND) spokesman Miloud Chorfi on February 23rd called for a “massive turnout” in order to “bar the way to schemers, those peddling international religious and political wares, and those who make a career out of meddling in other countries’ internal affairs”.
The National Organisation of the Children of Chouhada (ONEC) issued a statement on February 24th, urging voters to elect candidates “worthy of their trust and faithful to the country and message of chahid”.
The Islamist Ennahda party described voting as “every citizen’s national duty”, while the Society for a Movement of Peace (MSP) called the May 10th vote as “a celebration of democracy”.
Nevertheless, it remains uncertain what the turnout will be. According to political analyst Samir Alami, “the field is wide in these elections” and “it is extremely difficult to predict levels of participation or the political side which will win the race”.
Attitudes are varied among youths. While some see the mobilisation campaign as pointless, others are becoming heavily involved.
The Algerian Youth and Student Network is among the latter. The group on February 21st launched a campaign to spur those under 35 to play their part in the decision-making process.
“We are currently encouraging young people to go to the polls to support young people rather than the old officials,” group secretary-general Adel Ghana said.
The network called for the “rejuvenation” of state structures. “If you really want to leave the way open to young people, then you must prove it at the coming legislative elections,” the network said in a statement.