Over the past year and a half, Arab Spring has transformed the political landscapes in Arabian countries in West Asia and especially in North Africa. Boosted by the fallout of the momentous events, the once prosecuted Islamic parties have emerged triumphant across North Africa recently in the elections of Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. They are also an important constituency in the post-Gaddafi Libya.
In this backdrop, it is understandable for the Algerian Islamic groups to hope for a change of fortunes in the upcoming elections. Over two decades ago, in 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front, an Islamic party, won almost half the votes in the first round of the legislative election. Faced with the prospect of an Islamic government, the military stepped in and took power, triggering a brutal civil war which claimed more than 100,000 lives. Twenty one years later, three Islamic parties have forged an alliance to challenge the two governing parties, National Liberation Front (FLN) and National Rally for Democracy (RND). These parties won 136 and 61 seats respectively in the last election in 2007.
The Islamic alliance will consist of Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), Islamic Renaissance Movement (also known as al-Nahda) and Movement for National Reform (also known as al-Islah). The former, which won 52 seats in 2007, is by far the largest party. Al-Nahda and Al-Islah won 5 and 3 seats respectively in the election five years ago.
Another major challenger to the governing parties will be the 'Red Lady' of Algeria, Louisa Hanoune and the Trotskyist Workers' Party (PT) led by her. A veteran revolutionary aged 58, Hanoune is popular in Algeria and came second in the largely one-sided presidential election in 2009, winning 4.22% of votes. She has once again promised to improve job opportunities, eual rights for women and eliminating Algerian Family Code, making Berber an official language and other reforms eliminating discrimination based on sex, religion, language etc. With increasing economic worries and the advances gained by the European leftists across the Mediterranean, the PT hopes to significantly improve their tally of 26 seats in 2007. With the possibility of no party or alliance gaining a simple majority, PT might find itself in a "kingmaker" position. However, it is doubtful if any other major party will want to work with it.
The main challenge for the political parties will be to instill credibility to the electoral process. In 2007, just 35% of eligible voters casted their ballots. However, with new possibilities on the cards, it is expected that more people will vote this time. The participation of new voters will not be advantageous for the governing coalition.
Image: Algeria (orthographic projection), L'Americaine, Wikimedia Commons.