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Algeria to change constitution despite low voter turnout

Observers say that the changes will keep key powers and appointments in the hands of the president and will also give the Algerian military powerful sway

Algeria to change constitution despite low voter turnout www.theafricanstand.com


(The African Stand) — Algeria will change the country’s constitution after a referendum on the issue last week, despite less than 25 percent of the population turning out to vote.

Sunday’s voter turnout, which accounted for only 23.7 percent of 24.5 million eligible voters, is believed to be the lowest in Algeria’s electoral history.

Nevertheless, the proposed amendments were passed with 66.8 percent of the vote, according to the National Independent Elections Authority (ANIE).

The changes, which were proposed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in an effort to placate the nationwide protest movement, known as Hirak, include plans to reduce presidential term limits to two and increase the powers of the parliament, judiciary, and prime minister.

Observers, however, have noted that the changes will keep key powers and appointments in the hands of the president, according to an Al Jazeera report.

The changes will also give the Algerian military, which has long held powerful sway over domestic politics, the ability to intervene outside the country’s borders, potentially in Libya and Mali.

The constitutional amendments have been rejected by the vast anti-government Hirak protest movement, which swept across the country in February 2019.

The Hirak protest movement lasted more than 12 months, forcing long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in April 2019 after nearly 20 years in the post.

Demonstrations were only stopped when coronavirus forced their suspension.

Members of the movement say the referendum lacks national consensus and that the proposed amendments are a mere “façade” of change, according to Al Jazeera.

Demonstrators called on Algerians to boycott Sunday’s vote, which took place under strict restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some observers have claimed the global pandemic could be a reason for the record low turnout.

However, in the Kabylie region, a stronghold of support for the Hirak protest movement, demonstrators blocked polling stations, preventing would-be voters from casting their ballots, Reuters cited witnesses as saying.

Days before the vote President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was elected by a then-record low voter turnout in December, was hospitalised in Germany.

Tebboune’s hospitalisation came after several of the 74-year-old’s key aides tested positive for coronavirus.

Days later a cartoon, showing a man in a polling booth looking at ballot papers marked in German rather than Arabic, appeared in the El Watan newspaper.

Hassan Juma

Written by Hassan Juma

Hassan Juma is an international reporter who graduated with a degree from The United States International University where he majored in Journalism and International Relations and he is currently working for African Stand as a senior reporter covering the Middle East, US, Asia, and Europe.

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