What is most notorious about Algeria’s May 17, 2007 parliamentary elections is the fact that they were boycotted by almost 65% of the electorate, a historical threshold never crossed since independence. The following study analyses the electoral exercise in light of realities on the ground: a voting process devoid of democracy. To make this game more politically attractive and attract more support for it, the Algerian Government relies on political clientelism and the distribution of political and material favours (rent). However, the formula that turned the National People’s Assembly (NPA) into a rubberstamp chamber, devoid of any prerogative of debate and parliamentary control, also turned the lower house of parliament into an instrument of co-option, and a place where gain from rent accrue and privileges to deputies abound. Pushed to the limit by Bouteflika’s presidential style of government, this governance system set in motion a perverted process: the moral and political de-legitimisation of the NPA. By refusing to set up a party system that brings different social groups closer together and represents the interests of parties to conflict, this political game of parliamentary electioneering without representation leaves the voter with only one option, now that loyalty has been eroded and the right to be heard blocked: defection. This is, at the core, the obvious manifestation of the political representation crisis that has besets the Algerian political system since the collapse of “revolutionary legitimacy” in October 1988.
The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.