Bouteflika re-elected Algeria's president despite low turnout

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika received 5 million fewer votes than in the last election, indicating general dissatisfaction with his policies.

al-monitor Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika casts his ballot during the presidential election in Algiers, April 17, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra.

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voters, voter turnout, polls, elections, economy, algeria, abdelaziz bouteflika

Apr 22, 2014

Assuming they are accurate, the official results of the April 2014 presidential election show that 5 million fewer voters voted for Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika than in 2009. This significant drop shows that his popularity is at its lowest, though it should be noted that there are no pollsters in Algeria.

Contrary to what happens in the civilized world, there are no pollsters in Algeria. Pollsters highlight general public opinion trends, measure politicians’ popularity and access how satisfied the people are with economic and social policies. Yet, in Algeria, elections are the only way to find out what is going on in the Algerian “collective mind.”

In the 2014 presidential elections, Bouteflika won 4,579,107 fewer votes than in the 2009 elections, indicating a clear decline in the number of those convinced he should rule for a fourth term. In the 2014 elections, Bouteflika won 8,332,598 votes. In 2009, he won 12,911,705 votes.

It is interesting that the president did not even succeed in getting the same number of votes he got in the 2004 elections — 8,651,723 votes — despite the electorate growing from 18 million voters in 2004 to 21 million in 2014.

By adopting these official figures, despite the widespread skepticism of the opposition, it appears that the discourse of Bouteflika’s supporters, who always say there is a special relationship between the president and his people and that the latter always vote for him whatever the circumstances, is just rhetoric and not based on accurate data. This is so because many of those who normally vote for him have chosen to avoid the polls this time, vote for one of his opponents or place blank or disqualified ballots, the numbers of which reached 900,000.

Observers attribute the drop in votes to the great social upheaval during Bouteflika's third term, the weak economy, the president’s health — which led many to question his ability to stay in power — and the fact that many citizens did not appreciate the scaremongering used by his supporters to justify giving the president another five-year term.

Bouteflika, a charismatic president who is not normally much affected by declining popularity, does not seem happy with his poor electoral numbers, because they send an unambiguous message that most Algerians are dissatisfied with his policies.

Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz tried to explain the low voter participation, and said that there was a general worldwide trend of declining participation. But examining the global numbers, this explanation shows itself to be false. For example, the participation rate was 80% in the 2012 French presidential elections, 75% in the 2013 Italian legislative elections that produced the Italian prime minister and 73% in the Spanish legislative elections. Despite the United States having a very different voting system, the participation rate in the 2012 US presidential elections was 56%. The participation rate in the Algerian presidential elections did not even exceed that of the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections, which reached 51.7% despite the events at the time.

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More from  Mohammad Sedmo