By Lyes Aflou
In an effort to guarantee transparency, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika invited more than 500 international observers to oversee the country’s May 10th legislative elections. It is the first time in Algeria’s history that outsiders are monitoring the poll.
Ten members of the European Parliament and 20 European Union ambassadors will arrive in Algiers next Monday (May 7th).
“We’re here at the invitation of the Algerian government, and this is the first time that the EU deploys a mission to Algeria to ensure a complete and thorough observation of the entire electoral process,” EU chief observer José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra said after the first group of more than 500 outside observers arrived on April 15th, the official start of the election campaign.
“I think these elections arouse a lot of hopes for the country,” the EU official added.
Some 120 observers from the European Union, 200 from the African Union, 100 from the Arab League, 10 from the UN, 20 from the Organisation of Islamic Conference and delegations from two US NGOs will watch as thousands of candidates compete for 462 seats in parliament.
“We went to several provinces of the country to inquire about the campaign and give a neutral view of the legislative process in the national territory,” Sanchez-Neyra said in Algiers on May 1st.
The mission’s mandate is to “identify strengths and weaknesses in the electoral process, in order to establish a final independent report in June or July, containing recommendations to help improve the Algerian electoral system”, Sanchez-Neyra explained.
The EU delegation has already drafted a preliminary report, based on information from all 48 wilayas. So far, the EU official said, everything is proceeding under proper conditions.
Sánchez-Neyra congratulated Algiers on providing “all possible guarantees for free access to all phases of the electoral process”.
The observations are being performed by a core team of ten with the help of about 40 additional observers from EU member states. Workers will remain through June to assist the delegation in their work at the local level across the country. An additional 60 are scheduled to arrive in Algeria on May 4th to conduct observations though Election Day.
As election observers fan out across Algeria, people are eager to welcome and meet their international visitors.
Observers have already visited a number of wilayas around the country, including Constantine, Annaba, Tebessa, Bechar, and Mila. Algerians were able speak with election experts from Lithuania, Romania, the United Kingdom, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries.
In Gulema, observers attended a National Liberation Front (FLN) meeting. They also met with the wilaya’s legislative election committee members and visited the local radio station.
The National Legislative Election Supervising Committee (CNSEL) greeted Arab League, EU and other monitors in Algiers.
The observers talked to members of the committee about the powers of the CNSEL and the role it plays in guaranteeing transparency in the ballot.
Forty-four political parties, 21 of which received official approval just this year, are taking part in the May 10th elections. There are 2,053 electoral lists covering 25,800 candidates.