The 12 December election will almost certainly go ahead but whether there will be an election campaign — or what sort it will be — is another matter altogether.
The Autorité nationale indépendante des élections’ (ANIE) has endorsed five of the 22 submissions as candidates. They are, in order of the number of signatures validated:
- Abdelmadjid Tebboune (74 years old; 104,000 signatures). Without affiliation but a former Front de libération nationale (FLN) wali in several wilayas, He became a Minister Delegate in 1991 and Housing Minister under President Bouteflika. In 2017 he was appointed Prime Minister before being dismissed after three months.
- Abdelkader Bengrina (57 years old; 83,342 signatures). President of the El Bina party. A former Minister of Tourism; former executive of the Mouvement de la société pour la paix (MSP); and the only Islamist representative. He was a previous supporter of the Bouteflika presidency before resigning in 2013 to create the El-Bina movement following his failure in the legislative elections.
- Ali Benflis (75 years old; 81,295 signatures). President of the Talaie El-Houriat party. Former premier unsuccessful presidential candidate in both 2004 and 2014. He was appointed as FLN Secretary-General in 2003 before resigning to run against Bouteflika in the 2004 election.
- Abdelaziz Belaïd (56 years old; 77,239 signatures). President of the El-Moustakbel Front. Former FLN executive who founded the pro-regime Front El-Moustakbel micro-party in 2012. He was an FLN MP from 1997 to 2007.
- Azzedine Mihoubi (60 years old: 65,743 signatures). Acting General-Secretary of the Rassemblement national démocratique (RND). Mihoubi is a surprise candidate because the RND — like the FLN which does not have an official candidate — raises is disliked because of its support for the Bouteflika regime. He served as minister, secretary of state, and spokesman for the government after leading public bodies such as the national TV and radio. Mihoubi was an MP before becoming Secretary of State for Communication in 2008 and then Minister of Culture in Abdelmalek Sellal’s government of 2015. He took over as acting head of the RND following Ahmed Ouyahia’s imprisonment in July 2019. His various terms of office were associated with a number of scandals, disorder, staff dissatisfaction and no traces of good management.
The remaining 17 submissions were rejected for a number of reasons: insufficient signatures; incorrectly signed forms (i.e. not over age 18); and so forth. In fact, local media sources suggest that there is strong evidence that the five candidates were pre-selected. None of these candidates can be seen as coming anywhere close to being a ‘people’s candidate’.
With the names of the candidates being booed as soon as they were publicly announced, the media is already asking how they will be able to hold an election campaign when it starts on 17 November. It is difficult to envisage how the five will be able to conduct any sort of campaign, except through the government-controlled media outlets.
Last week Benflis and representatives of Tebboune were attacked in public. Benflis was recognised at a restaurant in Baba Hassen (Algiers) on 2 November and was booed and accosted by young people and was forced to make a getaway by car. A similar situation occurred in Annaba were Tebboune’s representative was recognised in a street and was mobbed by youths.
Given that ministers have been virtually unable to show their faces in public since the start of the Hirak — being literally chased out of town and requiring police protection, whenever they have made an appearance in public — it is difficult to envisage how any of these candidates will be able to hold any sort of public electoral meeting.