Algeria’s electoral authority has said the country’s presidential election next month will be contested by five candidates – all part of the political establishment that has drawn the ire of months-long protests demanding the departure of the ruling elite.
The contenders are former Prime Ministers Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Ali Benflis, former Culture Minister Azzedddine Mihoubi, former Tourism Minister Abdelkader Bengrine and Abdelaziz Belaid, head of the El Mostakbal Movement party.
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Mohamed Chorfi, the head of the electoral body, told reporters in the capital, Algiers, on Sunday that the final list of candidates for the December 12 poll will be passed to the constitutional council for final validation.
An original 23 candidates had applied but only five made the final list, according to Chorfi. Rules for candidates included gathering 50,000 signatures from citizens on voting lists from at least 50 regions.
Observers expect a weak turnout.
Authorities say the vote would be the only way to get out of a crisis Algeria has been facing since the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April under pressure from protesters.
Polls planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis, as interim President Abdelkader Bensalah’s mandate expired that month.
Although authorities met some protesters’ demands by detaining several former officials, including two former prime ministers and several prominent businessmen over corruption charges, protesters say they do not trust those currently in power to ensure democratic elections, citing their past links to Bouteflika, who ruled for 20 years.
“There will be full transparency in the handling of the presidential election,” Chorfi said in his announcement.
The announcement came a day after tens of thousands of Algerians marched for a 37th consecutive week to demand an overhaul of the political system.
Angry at unemployment, corruption and an elderly elite seen as out of touch with the young, Algerians began taking to the streets February 22 to protest, initially against ailing Bouteflika’s plans to remain in office, and then for the removal of all remnants of a secretive political and military establishment that has dominated the country for decades.
The demonstrators have repeatedly demanded key figures of the ruling elite step down and credible institutions be established before elections are held.
The army, led by powerful chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, is seen as the main player in Algeria’s politics. Gaed Salah has also promised transparency and fairness for the December 12 vote.