Algeria's ruling party wins polls, but turnout sends mixed message
Algerians voted in parliamentary elections, returning the ruling party to power. But many Algerians are frustrated over high unemployment and what they see as rigid rule by an aging elite.
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Algeria won independence from France in 1962 after eight years of war. After one-party rule by the National Liberation Front (FLN) party, politics was opened in 1989. The country slid into civil war in 1992 after the Army cancelled elections that an Islamist party was expected to win. Bouteflika oversaw a 2005 peace deal with most militias.Skip to next paragraph
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In 2008, a parliament dominated by the FLN lifted presidential term limits, allowing Bouteflika to win his current third five-year term.
Winning hearts and minds
But back at the Quatre Saisons du Globe, regulars are less concerned with electoral victories than they are with what they describe as failures of governance.
Mr. Aksses is plonking down glasses of tea and coffee that left damp rings on the bar top. A young and sleepy day laborer named Mokhtar Melah spoons sugar into his hot milk and bites off the end of his croissant.
“I have no faith in this election,” he says. “The government does nothing for us. When my mother went to hospital for calcium deficiency they didn’t even have the medicine.”
Deemed too short for the Army, Mr. Melah left his home town of Sidi Lantri at 18 to seek work in the capital. He shares a three-room apartment with 10 other men.
A TV in the corner switched abruptly from oud music to Bouteflika preparing to vote. He held his ballot poised over the box as a storm of cameras flashed.
“Tahya Bouteflika!” – “Long live Bouteflika!” cries Jamal Benseljim, a middle-aged employee of a car rental service sitting near Melah.
Mr. Benseljim credits Bouteflika with bringing stability, and sees voting as a chance to shake up Algeria’s politics.
“We need houses and young people need jobs,” he said. “I hope the parliament can change things.”
Melah’s generation often takes a more jaundiced view. “Because young people don’t have work,” he says. “Not me, not my siblings, nor most of my friends."
For Hadi Benomar, a young economics graduate sitting with Benseljim, the state is a source of such problems.
“Algeria is rich from oil, but budgets disappear into corruption and misuse,” he says. “I won’t be voting.”
Mr. Benomar plans to marry this year but is forced by lack of housing to live with his parents, a common frustration for young Algerians hoping to start families.
Casting her vote
At the Yousef Ibn Tachfine school in the upscale district of Hydra, a housewife named Salia Ait Mohamed voted in hopes of a better future for her four children. She brought along her six-year-old son, Houssam.
Her husband studied medicine in Syria but cannot work in Algeria’s francophone hospitals. He sells cleaning supplies instead, and the family shares a two-room studio.
“My family supported the FLN during the war for independence, and we still do,” Mrs. Ait Mohamed said. “Sometimes I hope that the party can help. Other times I despair.”
She finished voting, and walked silently out of the school and down the street, a small figure in an orange skirt and black head scarf, leading her son by the hand.