By Ademe Amine
In the run up to Algeria’s May 10th legislative election, observers are expressing concern about disengaged voters and a slow start to the campaign season.
Algerian media outlets echo the sentiment of an election still seeking the spark needed to officially ignite.
“The public shows no sign of excitement,” El Watan wrote.
Le Soir d’Algérie said the campaign was “struggling to get off the ground”. L’Expression said “the legislative campaign is moving at a snail’s pace”, while Liberté wrote: “The general public still does not know who the candidates are.”
Even the government’s daily newspaper, El Chaâb, said that “the atmosphere surrounding campaigning for the legislative elections has been gloomy”.
Outside circumstances may be contributing to the lack of election excitement.
“The election campaign has had the misfortune of coinciding with the official mourning announced following the death of Algeria’s first post-independence president,” suggested Salah Bibrasse, a political science student at the University of Algiers.
Indeed, the April 15th official start of the campaign came two days after the funeral of 96-year-old Ahmed Ben Bella.
Poor weather and high food prices may also be drawing public attention away from politics.
“The explosion in the price of fruit and vegetables has really turned the people away from the election campaign over the last two weeks,” explained Hamid Sidali, a campaigner for the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD).
“How can you win over the public when they cannot even afford to buy a kilo of potatoes?” he asked.
Others argue that markets are not to blame for the public’s lack of interest in the election.
“Algerians have a natural aversion to politics and the political classes,” Jil Jadid party chief Sofiane Djillali said.
Lawyer Mounir Damerdji asserted that neither high prices nor any kind of aversion were to blame. Instead, he pointed to political parties.
“We are dealing with associations of people with short-term shared electoral interests, rather than parties with a popular support base, a coherent political vision and a strategy for taking power at the ballot box,” Damerdji said.