Would Compulsory Voting Solve the Abstention Problem in Algeria? Part 1

The Algerian authorities are very busy preparing for the next legislative elections which are due this Spring. One of the major themes which crops again and again in televised programmes is how to tackle abstention. In Algeria, this means low voter-turnout and not simply casting a blank vote. The authorities seem intent this time on ensuring that voter-turnout is adequate (whatever adequate means). This is understandable of course as even a 100% vote doesn’t mean anything if only one person cast a vote (the candidate him/herself). In this video, which shows a part of a programme from the Algerian national TV, we see a legal expert urging citizens to go to vote and he does so by using very peculiar arguments:

I have not watched the entire programme, so it might be that this bit we see here being out of context, the impression we get from what this guy is saying is not accurate. Because if we take it at face value, this guy is basically advocating a fascist approach to promote democracy. Let me summarize the points he makes:

  • First, he says that it is not difficult to pinpoint who has voted and who hasn’t. The ink which is used on the voter’s finger to keep their digital imprint takes 5 days to fade and so presumably, one is to infer from this that it would be possible to inspect the population fingers to catch those guilty of abstention.
  • Second, he says that in the Algerian law, there are only a few cases where abstention is legal (criminal charges, unsound mind) and so the real question is why do those who don’t have these legal restrictions imposed on them choose not to vote? Here, the way he expresses his point leads one to believe that he is calling for prosecution of those millions who do not go to vote. I think it’d be easier to find criminal charges for them or produce certificates of unsound minds in order to make the whole abstention thing legal in that case. Some Algerians already resort to such measures to avoid the compulsory military service for example. And with Algeria making good progress in criminal human rights, serving a prison sentence is becoming a lucrative option for many.
  • Third, even if we suppose a citizen doesn’t like any of the candidates, he says, they can still go and cast a blank vote. The person who posted the video commented with: “and will this blank vote remain blank or will it be filled-in later?” I am not sure if this is a valid comment as it should be possible to cast a blank vote whilst ensuring it won’t be tampered with later (eg. crossing the entire ballot or selecting ‘None of the above‘ if such an option exists on the ballot). There are also theoretically more effective and democratic ways one can protest by voting (protest vote), than not turning up at all.

I think that the point being discussed here, despite how it might seem, is the reasons for low voter-turnout and how we can address them. The speaker has not done a good job of presenting his argument, but this is a communication problem many Algerians suffer from. I also think he misinterprets the law when he infers that anybody who doesn’t fall in the category where voting is illegal is bound by law to vote. It is like saying that anybody who does not have an amputated leg is obliged to run. A legal ‘expert’ shouldn’t make such fallacious deductions. A citizen is bound by law to turn-up to voting polls if and only if the law explicitly states so. I have downloaded the 2012 Algerian Electoral Code and have not found any mention of voting being compulsory. However, many people say that registration on electoral lists and obtaining a voter card is recommended in order to avoid bureaucratic complications.

Declining Voter-Turnout: A Common Problem in Democratic Systems

Low voter-turnout is a problem even in more established democracies. For example, in 2006, a research report published by a British think-tank days before local elections were to take place, found that the last two general elections had the lowest turnouts – 59% and 61% – since World War I. It was suggested that those who do not vote should be fined to combat low turnout at the polls. Another example, the US voter-turnout has been fluctuating between 49% and 60% in the last 50 years (in 1996, the turnout was the lowest since 1924). The 2000 US presidential election is also a case in note, where voter-turnout was one of the key factors in the results and the controversy which ensued. Numerous analyses have been conducted on this issue, and voter-turnout has been considered not only on quantitative terms but also on socio-economic and demographic terms (eg. voting patterns in light of socio-economic considerations, correlation between apparent enthusiasm for a particular election and actual voter-turnoutetc).

What do I retain from these examples?

  • First, that the decline in voter-turnout is a general trend and hence, on its own, it is not a reliable indicator of the ‘health’ of a political system. How it is dealt with and proposed ways to address it are however more reliable indicators.
  • Second, that, when considering ways to tackle this problem, other factors than sheer numbers of active voters need to be considered such as turnout patterns, demographics of active voters and how the various socio-economic, political and cultural contexts of a particular election have impacted on election results.
  • Third, that in Algeria, we severely lack such data (let alone analyses) and the focus on voter-turnout seems thus a little bit creepy. I mean, I can understand that voter-turnout is an important factor in a self-professed democracy, but the legitimacy of such a concern heavily depends on the context and the way it is expressed. With a total lack of genuine and scientific attempts to understand the phenomenon, an out-of-the-blue panic about it seems comic at best and sinister at worst.

Why It is Important to Address Low Voter-Turnout in Algeria

Regardless of whether our authorities are pressured by the West to introduce political reforms and boost their legitimacy, or whether our authorities have a great ability to adapt to new circumstances (Arab Spring) and anticipate eventual threats to their power (hence spontaneously rush to introduce ‘reforms’), I think we Algerian people have a great opportunity to consolidate the democratic process in our country. We must make the most of not only interior changes but also exterior changes in power balances. Algerians just seem to wait till the entire ‘regime’ somehow disappears to start voting! But I can tell you (min had el minbar), that even if we somehow wake up one day in an ideal democracy (not that such a thing exists), the voter-turnout will remain the same as the current one. Why? Because we are lazy, like most people in other established democracies who suffer from the same problem. Yes, one core reason of low voter-turnout is that human nature tends to become apathetic or complacent (this is why marriages experience problems).

We must address this and at least make a point of voting if only to get in the habit of doing so. Like going to the gym in order to keep healthy. One must get into the habit of doing so, regardless of whether after one week, one month or one year, not much weight appears to have been shed. The most important thing is to get into the habit and keep fit. Same with voting – if we want to work towards greater political awareness and a functional democracy that is. The bottom line is, it is people’s participation which builds a democracy. Politicians can only follow the tide in order to secure election. In other words, nobody apart from the people themselves has any real stake in a true democracy being in place. It’s therefore silly to expect politicians to hand us democracy on a silver plate. I’d go as far as suggesting that it is still worth voting even if elections are said to be rigged, because no votes means no proof either way. Like they say, there is no foolproof way of stopping thieves, but we can at least make theft harder for them.

Possible Reasons for Low Voter-Turnout

Some would argue that, even if human nature tends towards apathy, it is the responsibility of politicians to ‘keep the passion alive‘, but my response to that is, maybe but what incentive would they have to do so if a turnout of 50% is as valid as a turnout of 90%? It is clearly nonsensical to lay the blame on politicians for low turnouts. Diversity and richness of political programmes and parties might however contribute to capturing the interest of more sections of society, but then again what would be the incentive if the prime objective of a party is to get elected? In some societies, it is rather easy to secure a landslide vote, democratically. Such that there isn’t even an incentive to do politics properly. This might be the main reason for uninterest in politics in Arab countries. But as I mentioned above, this is changing thanks to the Arab Spring and we must seize this opportunity to push for a more democratic process via civil means.

On top of inherent characteristics of human nature (and perhaps even of some variant of democratic systems), the structural features of an electoral system are also very important to explain low voter-turnout and also to address it. Facilitating access to polling stations and making voting as hassle-free as possible is one way of boosting voter-turnout, why not make Election Day a public holiday for example, increase the number of polling stations or consider alternative ways such as electronic voting or postal voting. OK this last one is a bit rich I concede.

The point here is, Algerian authorities would do well to address the logistical problems of the electoral system before blaming the citizen for not taking elections seriously. From the TV coverage of past elections, I get the impression that long queues on election day are used as an indicator of high turnout, because we are always shown long queues of citizens eager to get in and vote. This is ridiculous of course, because having to queue for hours before getting to cast a vote might actually discourage voters. What is even more hilarious, is that people themselves would respond to such broadcast scenes by things like: “This is rubbish, when I went to vote this morning, there were only two old ladies and nobody else. I wouldn’t be surprised if the participation rate is around 1%”. People also take queuing as an indicator that elections are going well. This should be challenged, even though I wonder if there is some psychological boost to finding oneself in a long queue of voters who are all eager to vote and if the reverse is true. It might actually be that in countries where unemployment is rife and gossip a national sport, queuing to vote becomes a good opportunity to socialize and maybe even find a suitable husband/ wife?

One other reason I often hear Algerians provide is that all politicians are the same, so what would be the point in voting for any of them. This is also used as a justification by many people in more established democracies. I think it is another manifestation of apathy, because the democratic process does (should) make provisions for protest voting.

In part II, I will talk about possible ways to address low voter-turnout and in particular, making attendance of polling stations compulsory by law. I will attempt to explore whether this measure (which seems to be hinted at in the above video) will be effective in the current Algerian context. But meanwhile, I welcome your comments and insights on the problem of low voter-turnout in Algeria.


39 thoughts on “Would Compulsory Voting Solve the Abstention Problem in Algeria? Part 1

  1. I was about to write a new post after seeing this video yesterday on youtube. An interrogation in a police post in the former Soviet Union by taking exactly the words of this guy addressed to a person who did not vote. It does not matter now …your post is much more “politiquement correct ” Thank you Algerianna.

    PS: Bqa ghir ygoul “Bousiou el hala, 3awnouna n’thoum thany. Madabina nendhro h’na lebroumi felkarté hada”

  2. First a comment on the video. I don’t think the man genuinely misinterprets the law as he’s a former member of the constitutional council… I think he just tries to mislead his audience. Then why the heck does he talk of shahama and karama?! He made me laugh.

    On the topic itself, I remember Zerhouni also mentioned the low voter turnout in Western democracies when he was asked about the even lower voters number in the previous legislatives. And apparently they couldn’t bear it, which why they rigged all the numbers in Bouteflika’s thid term election.

    You rightly said that the turnout depends on the context in established democracies. You have countries with low turnout in national elections but a high one in local ones, or legislatives, or presidentials, etc. even if, I agree, it’s always relatively low.
    The difference in Algeria is that it is very low regardless of the election, and the reasons behind it is less the fact all politicians are the same than the fact the elections are rigged. Even Bouteflika’s supporters admit he was chosen before the 1999 elections were held…

    The question about whether Algerians should vote or not is not easy. Protest votes are not meaningful in Algeria’s political ecosystem. The minority parties are not serious enough to be chosen in a protest vote, and blank votes have little value. Boycott is not effective either. We see it though the past elections, and also with the FFS which usually boycotts the elections (even though the FFS stance depends a lot on the RCD’s).

    But I do not agree with you on saying we should all vote, just to be used to it… Voting in today’s Algerian rigged elections is like accepting the game and its illegal rules. Plus I do not understand how voting could make treachery harder. Would you have said the same on the fake elections the French used to organise in Algeria?

    To me there must be a another way… If people decide to vote, perhaps they should organise themselves to make sure those transparent boxes are not emptied/refilled in some place, etc. You cannot just give a “carte blanche” to the corrupt government by voting without taking in share in the control/monitoring.

    Also, I believe local elections (APC) are the first ones Algerians should target as these representatives are their daily contacts. Get rid of the shkara should be the first objective.

    PS: Instead of making the election day a public holiday, why not just do like el3alam and vote on the weekend?

    • MnarviDZ

      I agree with more popular involvement in supervising elections and how ballots are counted and transported. But aren’t there mechanisms already in place to ensure that? I mean we always hear about rigged elections etc., but there never is any proof other than hearsay and maybe the problem is in the people themselves who do not really appreciate that safe-guarding democracy is a duty on all of us. Perhaps some effective means of civic education is also needed? Also how would you explain that in the 90’s, authorities didn’t rig elections but later cancelled them. Is there any proof that they weren’t rigged by the FIS for example? This is a major event which has not been properly analyzed yet. And it had a huge negative impact on Algerian people’s perception and trust in democracy.

      The difference in Algeria is that it is very low regardless of the election, and the reasons behind it is less the fact all politicians are the same than the fact the elections are rigged. Even Bouteflika’s supporters admit he was chosen before the 1999 elections were held…

      Maybe but what if the relationship between these two factors is not as straightforward or one-directional as you imply? I mean, abstention could also push the government to rig elections, it even happened in the US (2000). I guess what I want to say is, Algerians are mistaken in their belief that abstention is going to change anything (we agree here and the FFS eternal boycott really irritates me especially when they try and make out it is achieving something), or even prevent elections being rigged at some point in the distant future (essamet yeghlab leqbih will not apply here am afraid). Vigilance and active participation is what is required. I think a change of mentality from passivity to activity is the first step – start by thinking beyond abstention and what mechanisms could be exploited to consolidate the democratic process.

      I also think that the ruling class are scared of an Arab-Spring-like scenario in Algeria. This is an important development which must not be let to pass without making the most of. Algerians know this (as the many strikes demonstrate), unfortunately, I fear that consolidation of the democratic process is not considered a priority by many Algerians, at least not important enough to pressure the government like for pay rises.

      This is what I mean by making it harder for cheats – getting more involved in the electoral process will expose more people to its intricacies and we will have more tangible proofs of what is going on! New technologies could help us (look at how people in neighboring countries used mobile phones to transmit truths to the rest of the World). What about Facebook and social networks? Surely something could be done with these as well. Keeping the pressure on the government is surely a good thing? We are now in 2012, let us not keep thinking we’re in 1990 still. We need proofs, enough of hear say and speculations. I just want us to move and start being positive for a change!

      • But aren’t there mechanisms already in place to ensure that?

        Now I think QatKhal is right and the post should b read au 33425eme degre. In a previous post you said our government is not capable of planning anything and now you say mechanisms and what not! Also, in some of your comments, one would think we live in a democracy…
        As to evidence of the rigged elections, I understand the results themselves cannot be considered as a proof but they are an interesting indicator if you ask me.
        And I am already taking risks of not getting my S12, renewing my passport, being called not radjel, etc. by not voting, so I am not going to tell here but believe me I have 1st hand evidence of boxes refilling in many previous elections. Bref, it is not just hearsay for me.

        Also how would you explain that in the 90′s, authorities didn’t rig elections but later cancelled them. Is there any proof that they weren’t rigged by the FIS for example?

        There are theories about this which I won’t repeat here. As to the FIS rigging them, I believe it is impossible. I mean ok a party could cheat in some locations but we’re talking of a nation wide treachery. And only the administration, under the pouvoir’s control, is able of to do it on this big scale.

        Algerian people’s perception and trust in democracy.

        Again, Algerians do not have the pleasure to trust or not democracy since they don’t know it…

        abstention could also push the government to rig elections,

        I am sorry but I refuse to take responsibility for this. The government is responsible for its own actions.

        Anyways, I have a question. Why do you want to force the people to vote? I answer yes to your question (the title of your post) but so what? If the government fines those who do not vote, or offers houses and jobs to the voters then everyone will vote and abstention will be close to zero. But would it solve the real issue, the fact the elections are not democratic? NO. Abstention is not my nb 1 problem when it comes to elections.

        Read this article http://www.elkhabar.com/ar/politique/280696.html . I just remembered how “poor” Touati fired some of his party’s members because he appointed them to monitor some voting bureaus and they didn’t do the job because they were paid by another candidate.

  3. PS to MnarviDZ: Re the question in your PS – Knowing the Algerian psychology, I think that making Election Day a public holiday would attract more Algerians to the poll stations than having it on a weekend, as it would be like a reward to them to have a day off, wallahou a3lam.

  4. Algerianna, je suis admiratif de ta capacité au raisonnement sérieux et approfondi après avoir regardé cette vidéo… A moins que j’ai loupé un truc et que tout cela est écrit au trentième degré….

    Tu devais être une tilmidha jayida oua jidiya… Hna quand le prof était un rigolo, kouna ndahkou, manakdabch 3lik, plus rien n’était sérieux… But you seem to be the good student that continues to take notes in every situation… even with a clown as a teacher

    Like The Matrix, I had many ideas about this subject once my hilarity stops (men el hamm)… ideas for pushing people to the vote… like :

    Article 10 in constitution : li mayvotich machi rajel…

    “Arfa3 soub3ak abba”

    “benti, bent familiya koul sbo3 b’vote…. ou bentek?”

    NB : Je viens de me rendre comptes que j’ai commencé en français et j’ai basculé inconsciemment en anglais, si quelqu’un a une explication à cet étrange phénomène, je suis preneur.

    • Qatkhal

      I hope you will also continue to admire me when I tell you that I have never voted lol But am seriously considering changing my attitude from now on for the reasons I stated above (and also because the guy in the video persuaded me with his arguments).

      The only thing which made me laugh in this video is the guy’s facial expression when he asked: “Why don’t they vote?” and when he veered off unexpectedly towards the Algerian shahama and karama (what was that about?!), also when he raised his finger timidly to ask to speak lol

      However, this video is only anecdotal, I’ve pondered this abstention problem on a few occasions and am sick and tired of it cropping up at every election while people, the primary concerned, continue to argue that abstention is the only way to protest! I think that this abstention problem should concern us all (the people) more than it does the authorities!, no matter what these clowns might say or do. Enough of distractions.

      The explanation to your NB is that, unlike me, you are not a tilmidh jayid wa djiddiy! So once again I remind you that this is massir oumma at play and I ask you again to tegla3 el kikaw men foummak!

      PS: I like that “elli mayvotish mashi radjel”, I really think it might work (but only with men!), your mission now is to find one that would work with women.

      • Elli ma tvotich machi mra, c’est aussi simple que ça :-)))
        Alors que nous souffrions de la vague de froid “sibérien” (stalinien?), avec le minimum vital (El Hamdoullah) de gaz pour nous réchauffer, sans électricité (heureusement que ma radio fonctionnait encore), on nous a annoncé un discours du Président… j’étais tout d’abord agréablement surprise (je garde encore une part de naïveté 😉 en croyant que le Raîs allait nous dire : ne vous inquiétez pas, j’ai pris les mesures nécessaires pour faire parvenir du gaz, de la nourriture et rétablir l’électricité dans toutes les chaumières…. et quelle déception! Dix petites minutes de discours, rien que pour une “échéance” électorale qui n’avait en ce qui me concerne en tout cas aucune importance à ce moment-là, j’avais d’autres soucis, Plus terre à terre c’est vrai, mais on a les soucis qu’on peut… Allah Ghaleb…
        Alors me traiter de hors-la loi, si je ne vote pas… c’est vrai que c’est le monde à l’envers aujourd’hui… alors, il ne faut s’étonner de rien…

      • I like that “elli mayvotish mashi radjel”, I really think it might work (but only with men!), your mission now is to find one that would work with women.

        Article 10 bis: Li matvotish martou, khtou oualla mou, machi rajal…

        • Doukhatek hadi? sahla khlass
          Article 0: Li mayvotish ma3a,douch Ennif.
          Ma yakhfach 3likom beli eljazayri mra wela rajel 3ando Ennif…wa bhada nkono qdina 3la el mouchkel
          Wa el3ilmou liliah

  5. The Matrix

    LOL! I really think this is the way to go, start a popular campaign along these lines – am sure Algerians (all of them) will respond to an appeal to their ‘nif'(look what happened with the football thingy). This has made me realize that this is perhaps why the guy in the video has started talking about the Algerian shahama and karama, he is not as stupid as he seems. But we must construct some myth to make it easy for them to make the link between the nif and voting or even democracy – translate democratic principles into Algerian slang so that people find it easier to relate to. BTW have you noticed that a lot of people from the old generation go to vote because they see it as a duty, perhaps they even relate it somehow to Algerian pride…or maybe it is because they were made to feel obliged to vote under the one party system so they kept this ‘habit’? Younger generations however do not have this concept. It is a shame in my opinion.

    • Hmm! I doubt it. Old generation like me went to vote and continue so because they were happy of voting for any candidate and any parti, but not the unique parti FLN , at last, and they wanted believing that there will not be lot of cheating. Ah yes we went to vote by Neef for once! fed up with FLN.

  6. Ok pour l’article 0 s’il est suivi de cet article 1

    Article 1 : Li yvoti, 3andou ennif mais qu’il ne croit pas que ça lui donne le droit de le fourrer dans les affaires de l’état….

  7. Une constitution doit etre precise et il faut donc un article 1 bis.

    Article 1bis: Le nif est un privilege accorde par l’etat, et celui-ci se reserve le droit de le retirer a quiconque contreviendrait a l’Article1.

    • Hshtt!! SilANce!! Khalliwni nkhammem shwi…..Bon, au lieu de réformer le peuple algérien, nebda bikoum ntouma nreformikoun san borsan!

      The Matrix et Qatkhal: Using your fertile imaginations, you should write short stories which aim to popularize the concepts of democracy and the worthiness of the process of democratization and make them more accessible to younger generations, try to target any section of society who is able to read. Facebook could help you get access to large audiences but it’s restricted to people who have Internet access.

      MnarviDZ: Using your capacity for calm and reflected evaluation of general situations, and your numerous readings, you should engage in producing analyses of Algerian psychology with respect to political engagement.

      Oumelkhir: Using your serenity and positivity, and your religious readings, you should propose ways to use religious concepts in order to motivate and promote civil responsibility.

      Me: I will write part II

      More seriously, I think that pointing the finger at the problems has been done over and over again. What is needed is to move to a frame of mind where feasible positive actions (small actions) are envisaged. Look at how hobbits did it where huge kingdoms failed! We need to start believing again that anything is possible and it really is…

      PS: We could also pay some Egyptians to slag off Algerian democracy on TV and boast their ongoing democratization process. This will really anger Algerians and stimulate their nif into action

  8. Algerianna

    Il est faux de dire que les jeunes ne votent pas… Je ne sais pas si mon cas est significatif mais je le dis quand même, j’ai voté très tôt et de moins en moins depuis ma jeunesse au point de ne plus voter maintenant que je suis vieux.
    J’ai commencé avant l’âge légal… Avec les autres gosses, nous prenions les cartes de nos parents, grands-parents, des voisins, de plein d’adultes et nous allions au bureau de vote où nous accomplissions ce devoir à le place dans la joie en mettant n’importe quoi, sous le regard amusé du gars… Atba3 hna, atba3 hna et voilà, personne n’y trouvait à redire et la carte de vote tamponnée, pièce nécessaire à de nomreuses formalités administratives était récupérée.

    La première élection à laquelle j’étais en âge légal de participer date de 1990, les municipales avec le FIS. Ces derniers nous avaient mis des affiches comme : “أصواتكم أمانة تسألون عنها يوم القيامة”… Bon, يخوفوا فينا alors je suis allé voter RCD parce qu’ils étaient les plus éloignés possible du FIS.

    Ensuite en 1995, j’étais au service national et on ne le dira jamais assez الخدمة الوطنية واجب وشرف . Et quand tu es militaire, tout est compulsory y compris le vote. Alors j’ai voté.

    En 1999, j’étais très enthousiaste… J’avais écrit au comité de soutien d’une des candidats, en l’occurrence Hamrouche, que je me souvenais avec émotion (http://chatnoir.over-blog.net/article-bref-retour-sur-les-reformes-73195123.html) du premier journal libre de l’Algérie indépendante que j’avais tenu en main en 1989, des réformes avortées, de la constitution pluraliste, de la loi sur la monnaie et le crédit… que vraiment j’y croyais et j’ai demandé ce je pouvais faire… C’est dire à quel point, j’étais con… La suite on la connaît. Je n’ai plus jamais mis les pieds dans un bureau de vote depuis cette date là.

    • Qatkhal

      Maalihsh, khsarna maaraka doesn’t mean nekhasrou el harb. Mazalet el baraka yal hadj. It reminds me, in the elections where the FIS won, I heard stories about bearded ones targetting old illitrate ladies and offering to help them vote as they couldn’t read. In the 2007 elections, they printed candidates photos on the ballots.

    • Bon, يخوفوا فينا alors je suis allé voter

      Une phrase hélas célèbre, maintenant on peut plutôt dire ” يهفو فينا ” …

  9. MnarviDZ

    OK I take your point about rigging but let me ask a question: assuming the ‘Pouvoir’ or whatever fraction of it happens to have the upper hand now is genuine about the reforms, what mechanisms would ensure beyind reasonable doubt that no rigging has taken place? Take the turnout of the 2007 legislative election for example, around 37%! There was also a big proportion of spoilt votes reported in official government figures. Why didn’t the ‘Pouvoir’ inflate this embarrassing figure (don’t say it’s already inflated because I don’t see the point in inflating to have a below 50% figure).

    Re: FIS – rigging at official level is not the only way elections could be tampered with. There are many shortcomings in the electoral system which favor foul play. But I concede that we can accept as true that FIS really played the game well and they did succeed in capturing popular support for many reasons.

    Re: Why do I want to force people to vote. Well it is not me who wants to ‘force’ them to vote! I only want more public participation in political life, more interest, less apathy. Compulsory voting, in the right context, could be one way to do that and it will provide data on voting trends which would be useful to monitor political evolution. In our context, compulsory voting would offer a 100% guaranteed way for the ‘Pouvoir’ to achieve near 100% turnout. So if it is so desperate for boosting legitimacy by higher turnout, why not simply make voting compulsory or as you suggest, do it the soft way and provide (financial) incentives to encourage people to vote? Also, note that high turnout doesn’t mean that all will vote for somebody, it might still result in a majority of spoilt votes (assuming no rigging).

    Re. planning. Yes it is true that they don’t plan ahead for anything other than their immediate and individual interests. Which is not that extraordinary given that the primary objective of any government is to perpetuate itself obviously! But given changing geo-political landscapes, this isn’t always straightforward, hence the possibility for the masses to push for change.

    Fair enough if you don’t want to take responsibility for anything.

    • I am not part of the system and I cannot explain all its actions.
      I understand that you want the people’s apathy to stop, and I want that too. But I found it strange that you targeted the abstention…
      And I see you use ‘assuming’ many times… I assumed some years ago and I voted. My assumption was wrong… so please do assume and let’s see what happens.

      Fair enough if you don’t want to take responsibility for anything.

      I said I was not taking responsibility for ‘this’ (your theory on the government being forced to rig the elections because of a low turnout). Turning ‘this’ into ‘anything’ is not fair and tends to be like the method of the guy in the video. It doesn’t work 🙂

      • MnarviDZ

        El khoulassa: I don’t share what I perceive as a conviction that the ‘regime’ is hell bent on stopping democratization or reversing it or whatever. To me, it seems probable, in light of previous elections and various attempts at ‘reforms’, that:
        – some form of democratization is sought
        – there is some distrust of people’s readinness for ‘democracy’ and so this democratization is ‘controlled’
        – the extent of this distrust is not homogenous across all clans of the ‘Pouvoir’
        – therefore, the situation is not that rigid, although nobody would expect the army to spontaneously retreat and give up its power, given the historical background of Algeria. But ‘enlightened’ fractions are not out of the equation.

        As for abstention – I also find it strange that the authorities obsess about it when we’re made to believe thy can rig elections and when they could resort to compulsory voting to address this.

        Difficult equation – I oscillate between optimism and pessimism. Still, to me, the question of what could be done via civil means is worth asking. But I concede that the value of voting is difficult to work out in this non transparent context…so I accept that the responsibility of voting would be greater than that of abstention.

        • Algerianna,

          I was supposed to say let’s agree to disagree but even our disagreement points call for some comments 🙂

          Just like you said the governments could rig an election because of the low turnout, now you say democracy is controlled because the people are not ready for it… This argument is what I ‘hate’ most, saying that we’re not mature and cannot make the right choice… so they choose for us, right?

          And I do not undertand how you got all the above points “in light of previous elections”…

          Regarding compulsory voting, perhaps Medelci wouldn’t be able to defend it before Master Obama?

  10. the moroccan election turnout was officially 45 percent I think.
    I hope this blog will encourage people to vote because of the following reasons
    politicians follow the population so if the population is more engaged(it is not enough to vote citizens must try to communicate their needs to the government amazingly algerian politicians have email addresses whether they use them of not is another idea.) politicians whatever intentions they have will find it harder to veer off the right track.
    Criticisms and name calling for the sake of name calling is not in the interests of anyone. people need to come together to find a common solution
    Who is the silent majority and are they going to vote are they informed
    and also …. i’m done
    with whoever you talk to they are different views of algeria
    lol here is the supposed budget of the government in 2012


  11. MnarviDZ

    Just like you said the governments could rig an election because of the low turnout

    And I still think the two are correlated in a complex manner (in the algerian government’s rationale of giving an appearance of democracy and still keeping power). But the seemingly unrigged turnout of the 2007 legislatives is an enigma – something just doesn’t add up in the popular belief that elections are always rigged…in an absolute way.

    now you say democracy is controlled because the people are not ready for it… This argument is what I ‘hate’ most, saying that we’re not mature and cannot make the right choice… so they choose for us, right?

    I am using the government’s probable rationale to interpret the ‘democratization’ process we have been plunged in since the 90’s. Let me tell you this, it is not only our government who distrusts the people in this regard but also some Algerians themselves (it is also the case in all Arab countries so I don’t really understand what is so surprising in my comment). The ‘stability’ doctrine is very anchored in our political elite (read army) and also in people. There are even religious arguments for it.

    And I do not undertand how you got all the above points “in light of previous elections”…

    I haven’t got time now. I will post about it in part II and give references.

    Regarding compulsory voting, perhaps Medelci wouldn’t be able to defend it before Master Obama?

    Hadha ra2y 3ala koulli hal. Even though I don’t trust him to defend anything, I think the case for compulsory voting would be easy-peasy given that it is adopted in countries like Australia.

  12. Tu m’excuseras Algerianna de revenir sur le sujet de la vidéo que je n’ai pas pu voir auparavant (ma connexion est préhistorique, et deux minutes sur youtube, c’est pas évident 😉
    Pour son histoire d’encre sur les doigts, on dirait qu’il nous menace le type, non? Alors, moi je préconise, le nettoyage massif d’artichauts (de foul ou de khorchef) bien sur sans citron, avant, pendant et après le 10 mai, comme ça, on aura bien les dix doigts marqués du sceau du patriotisme :-)))

    • T’as vu Oumelkhir? Il est rigolo, la solution que tu proposes labes biha 3ala koulli hal mais es-tu sûre de la couleur de l’encre? Et s’ils utilisaient une couleur differente pour chaque region? Moi je prends pas de risque, je vais commettre kesh djinaya et comme ça je serai clean pour le vote.

      • Pas mal comme solution Algerianna sauf qu’elle un peu radicale. Moi je dis si le froid continue conjugué au manque de gaz, tout le monde aura les doigts bleus et comme ça tout le monde “A VOTE” …10 fois
        Wa allaho a3lam

        • :-)))
          Algerianna, wallah ghir mahma kanet la couleur de l’encre, la tounafiss les traces du qarnoune, khorchef et autre foul…
          J’ai jamais considéré quelqu’un qui ne votait pas comme un potentiel “hors-la loi”. Et qui pourrait voter alors? :-)))

  13. Pingback: May 10 elections: Who will show up? | DZ Calling

  14. People don’t vote in Algeria because they have nothing to vote for. Who are we going to vote for? For the candidate who is a bit corrupted? Or for the candidate who is extremely corrupted? What does voting mean in Algeria? What does voting mean in an authoritarian regime? It means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Voting in an authoritarian regime leads to having an electorally-competitive-authoritarian regime. And the keyword in that compound word is authoritarian.

    Let us not kid ourselves with this kind of biased question and false solution to solve a dire problem. It’s like someone is in the emergency room hemorrhaging from every orifice and you are asking him whether he prefers vanilla or chocolate flavored ice cream.

    • Ahlaaaa laseptiemewilaya!

      You know, I so enjoyed your metaphore about our political class making Staline look like a choir boy that I will always associate your nickname with Staline lol (am joking)
      You’re right and I understand your frustration at the current situation. But personally, am past caring about the actual alternatives. I just want change, I want to see new figouret no matter how crap they are, I just want some fresh younger and luckily more handsome figouret. That’s all my modest ambition amounts to!

      • Well, i am glad you didn’t compare me to Saloth Sar (aka Pol Pot) or Genghis Khan or Lamari for that matter:) I take Staline any day of the week and twice on the weekend than Lamari.

        No seriously my friend, i don’t think you will get new fresh younger faces when the process through which these new fresh younger face are supposedly to emerge is totally rigged. Not only is it totally rigged, it is also set up to justify and legitimize a new crop of totally corrupted generation with fresh younger faces. Although being corrupt and handsome at the same time could lessen the daily pain a bit.

        PS: I am not frustrated. I am just a rational cynic 🙂

        • laseptiemewilaya

          I know yeah, rationalism is a one way ticket to cynicism lol. You’re right, ‘natural selection’ applies in every system and all depends on how the system has been set-up in its foundations. The Algerian system favors the emergence of virulent sociopaths, corrupt to the core (not just the political system but at all levels of administration in the public sector). The lesser of two evils would be perhaps a system which tolerates alternation of power, even if it’s the same crap in the end. Still, same crap, different facias is surely better than same crap, same facias!

        • Well, that’s the best way of discrediting democracy for the people. What you end up with is a population that doesn’t believe in authoritarianism, democracy, alternation, rule of law etc etc etc….Anyways, this is a long conversation and not really fit for the comment section.

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