Political scepticism may mar the Algerian parliamentary election Thursday even as the ruling government aims at easing the pressure for democratic change created by the Arab Spring revolts last year.
Islamist parties may double their share of seats in the new parliament from 15 percent in 2007 to 35 percent, extending their influence over North African politics, a Wall Street Journal report said. The projections mirror post-Arab Spring trends in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.
Algeria's ruling establishment, which has been in power since the country gained independence from France half a century ago, has promised the most fair and transparent election in 20 years. Diplomats, however, have contested the claim saying that the process could still be flawed.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 75, addressed the nation Tuesday and appealed to the young people to vote and embrace the opportunity for change, Reuters reported.
I'm addressing the young people who must take over the baton because my generation has had its time, he said. The country is in your hands. Take care of it.
However, a significant section of population believes that the election rhetoric has taken the shape of a battle between the ruling government and the sceptics.
Voters in the opposition stronghold of Kabylie region, who took an active part in the protest movement against the government that briefly erupted in the wake of Tunisian revolution last year, harbor strong anti-election sentiments, the Agence France Presse reported.
One of the strongest Kabylie political parties, the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), campaigned for boycotting the election on Thursday, saying that the institutions are crafted by the regime and that they don't provide a platform for the citizens to exercise democratic rights.
Amid the ongoing electoral sham, Algerian men and women are convinced more than ever that the institutions, as crafted by the regime, cannot be a suitable platform for them to express their grievances, Atmane Mazouz, the head of the RCD's parliamentary group, told reporters Monday.
Political analysts are not counting on the elections to bring in the changes achieved in neighboring nations following the mass uprising. However, the rising support for Islamists is seen as a critical factor in the battle against President Bouteflika.
The strongest Islamist coalition, the moderate Green Alliance, has established strong ties with the ruling regime with several of their leaders enjoying ministerial positions. It is likely that Bouteflika might choose one of them as the next prime minister.
Only 35 percent of the registered voters are expected to exercise their right, which would cause a major embarrassment to the ruling government. However, the political scene is not ripe enough for a mass revolt, partly due to the bloody memories of 1990s when a conflict between government troops and Islamist rebels killed an estimated 200,000 people.