Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune has nominated Aymen Benabderrahmane, finance minister in the outgoing government, to be the next prime minister of the economically struggling and politically divided North African country, multiple news sources reported on Wednesday, June 30. The announcement came 18 days after the recently concluded legislative elections saw no party win a majority in the parliament. The elections, held on June 12, had a historically low voter turnout of 23%. The pro-establishment National Liberation Front (FLN) emerged as the single largest party with 98 seats, but fell well short of the 204 seats required to win a majority in the 407-member parliament.
The elections were held amid the popular anti-government Hirak protest movement which had launched calls to boycott the elections. The boycott won significant support from ordinary Algerians, as reflected in the low voter turnout.
In the months leading up to the elections, the government stepped up its ongoing crackdown on Hirak protesters. Hundreds of protesters, activists, journalists, political leaders and other civil society figures that participated in the movement were persecuted by government authorities, which included unlawful and arbitrary arrests. The government also banned ‘unauthorized’ protests to prevent anti-government demonstrations in the run up to the elections, displaying fear of the increasing support and mobilization that the movement has generated since it started in 2019 during the presidency of Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Bouteflika was forced to step down after almost 20 years in power and had his authoritarian government disbanded due to the Hirak protests.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Algerian presidency announced that “Aimene Benabderrahmane has been appointed prime minister and charged with carrying on consultations with political parties and civil society to form a government as soon as possible.”
FLN, which has been the dominant political party since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, will have to obtain support from at least two other parliamentary political blocs to be able to form the government. As per the election results, the pro-establishment Democratic National Rally party won 58 seats, the Islamist Movement of Society for Peace 65 seats, Future party 48 seats, National Building Movement 39 seats, and Justice and Development Front won two seats. Significantly, independent candidates managed to win 84 seats, marking the biggest difference when compared to previous elections, most of which were wrought with rigging and fraud allegations.
The 2019 revolution spearheaded by the Hirak movement demanded comprehensive radical political and social reforms in the government and the administration of the country, along with major steps to address economic problems and alleviate the suffering of the common people. However, with Bouteflika era figures continuing their hold on positions of power and effectively running the country, the movement carried on until all demands were met and corrupt and incompetent government officials and politicians were removed. Hirak protesters also demanded an end to interference by the Algerian military in the country’s political and social affairs. Years of dominance by the military has negatively affected the political climate in Algeria and produced a weak and divisive political system.
Algeria has also suffered immensely in terms of its economy, with the official unemployment rate rising to 12% along with steadily rising inflation. The steep decline in the international prices of oil has also affected the country’s oil revenues, leading to increased deficits in the national budget, cuts in social spending, and repeated delays in financial investment by the government in various economic sectors depriving Algerians of employment and income opportunities. The ongoing economic crisis has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused further economic damage and resulted in widespread job losses and business closures. Thousands of Algerians have been pushed to the brink of survival and the road to economic recovery looks even more difficult. The new government will have to take urgent steps to address the core issues affecting the economy.