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Algeria was voted yesterday in a parliamentary election overshadowed by a crackdown on a long-running protest movement that has campaigned for a mass boycott.
Pro-government parties have urged a big turnout for the ‘crucial vote’ which they hope will restore stability after two years of turmoil since the forced resignation of veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The protest movement, which had held weekly demonstrations for reform until they were effectively banned last month, has denounced the election, describing it as a ‘sham’ that betrays the hopes of the hundreds of thousands of Algerians whose protests forced Bouteflika from power.
At least seven leading protest movement figures were arrested ahead of polling day while police deployed heavily in the capital Algiers to preempt any attempt to protest.
Those who do vote in Africa’s biggest nation must choose from a field of more than 13,000 candidates for the 407 seats in parliament, more than half listed as ‘independent’.
The head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Said Salhi, has denounced the crackdown that preceded the vote.
The ‘repressive atmosphere and the restrictions placed on human rights and freedoms mean these elections have no democratic value’, Salhi said.
The Hirak has urged boycotts of all national polls since it mobilised hundreds of thousands of people in 2019 to force Bouteflika and his cronies from power after the ailing president launched a bid for a fifth term.
It returned to the streets in February after an almost-year-long break due to the Covid pandemic.
However, the government stepped up its crackdown against the Hirak last month, blocking protests and detaining hundreds of activists who have defied new restrictions on public gatherings.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK