Algeria - Presidential

Algeria: The shortest election with the longest night

APA-Algiers (Algeria)

It became something of a surprise! Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a former Prime minister of ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika with neither a party, nor popularity or official supports was declared Algeria’s 11th president and after the contested “douzdouz” (12/12) referring to the polls taking place on the 12th day of the 12th month of the year, Algerian journalist and writer Chawki Amari exclusively retraces for the African Press Agency “The longest night of the shortest election”.

While the voter turnout was apparently low and public opinion expecting that the results would be more or less balanced between the five contenders, or at least that the consensus candidate Azzedine Mihoubi would eventually emerge as the president-elect, it is former Premier Abdelmadjid Tebboune who won the day with 58.15 percent.

Naturally, the longest night is December 21st but obviously the blue planet has already turned red with the rippling effects of climate change. 

In Algiers, a little ahead this year's season of world protests, the longest night was December 12-13, marked by cool weather cadenced by twirling gusts of wind.

7pm

Polling stations officially closed at 7pm. There was broad consensus among pollsters, observers, political militants and professional hairdressers, that the turnout would be low and hit between 10 and 20 percent. Just like the participation rate registered abroad that officially fails to reach 10 percent.

“We  don’t really like them because they are supposed to be enjoying more  privileges than us, but anyway they are Algerians,” says a mechanics in Algiers who was waiting to vote in the expected run-off.

In fact, it is more difficult to rig elections abroad than in the North African country. In Algeria, Election Day was marked by some voter apathy and permanent protests that degenerated in the evening into violent skirmishes with anti-riot forces in Algiers.

8pm

Pending the official turnout, the electoral authorities are announcing every two hours the participation rate. At 5pm, it's at 20 percent. The air smells of tricks! However, the electoral watchdog, the national and independent electoral Authority, brushes aside any potential voter fraud because of “the new data-processing tools”, according to the electoral body's chief Mohamed Chorfi, former Justice minister under Bouteflika.

Chorfi ensured a fraud-free election but his institution is essentially composed of personalities in the inner circles of power who vie more for  the post than positions. 

Consequently, this attracted some suspicion on artificial intelligence and then the validity of the vote as the Algerian people keep faith with traditions, truth and daylight clarity. 

9pm

It’s night and a steady calm prevails again in Algiers. Everybody return home, waiting for the official results. A host of black vehicles are cruising in the city amidst an unusual excitement and contradictory rumours. Talk of a 39 percent turnout is in the air, meaning 10 million voters out of  24 million trooped out to vote. And skepticism gains ground! 

Midnight 

He was the favorite of the regime but he was directly implicated while serving Bouteflika’s regime as minister and Prime Minister. He was enmeshed in cocaine trafficking. His son who was allegedly involved in the importation of large quantities of drugs smuggled in hard drug-laden containers intended for the army, was jailed and released on parole. Since he regularly appears before the judge,  his case is still pending; which sullies his profile and earns him the notoriety of a mafioso.

General Gaïd Salah convened a meeting in the heights of Algiers with Interior minister Nourredine Bedoui, who backed Mihoubi, with other distinguished figures attending. The night was long for the two ruling conservative and nationalist parties (FLN and RDN) assisted by satellite organizations who backed Azzedine Mihoubi, the youngest candidate among the five. He is also the less implicated by association with the Bouteflika regime.

8am

On Friday which is a weekly holiday equivalent to Sunday for Christians but it’s a great day for Muslims! But during this presidential election, Gen. Salah did not enjoy such a holiday. He took his decision and convinced the others.

9am

It;s the day after the 12/12  Election Day. The state news agency (APS) announces surprisingly that the results are coming within a week, and declares a run-off for late December and early January.

However, persistent leaks reveal that Abdelmadjid Tebboune has won making a second round unnecessary.

10am

While the state news agency reports no results, not even provisional ones, some unofficial media announces a press conference by the electoral authority at 11am.

11am

The state news agency is still reluctant to disclose any report until after 11am. 

ANIE chief Chorfi declares Abdelmadjid Tebboune winner with 58.15 percent. This announcement surprises many Algerians. 

In a café in downtown Algiers, an opposition stalwart retorts with a hint of disappointment in his voice “the runoff is not in our tradition, the elections  are not in our traditions.”

In other places, debates abound. “They voted Tebboune,” if so, fraud seems evident; despite the promises and almost yearlong protests.

Midday

Islamist Bengrina is reportedly leading in the polls and muddles the forecasts, prompting the decision to change. Therefore, general opinion reckons that he has no chance as Algeria, although a traditionalist nation and more or less religious, is insulated against populist Islamism. But for others, this same scenario justifies the fraud for Tebboune.

 1pm

Helicopters begin flying over the northern metropolis where people are more hostile to the elections.

2pm

It's time for the Great Friday prayer, also when protesters in the morning traditionally back up those of the afternoon. Muslims and non-Muslims come together, swelling the ranks of the demonstrators against the elections, and opposed to General Gaid Salah, and anyone related associated in any way to Bouteflika's regime, and obviously against Tebboune, the new president-elect.

3pm

It becomes clear that It's the first time that a president officially supported by the FLN is not  elected; which means the end of this historic political party and heralds a restructured political landscape.

On the streets the crowd and the protesters are very angry with the police, standing confused. The tension is high with simmering clashes and presently no one knows what will happen. 

The promise of a non-violent nationwide protest that inspired other movements worldwide is being replaced by a necessary form of violence while many political parties that also back the application of soft pressure, are contaminated by Lenin's saying: "war is an accelerator of history."

The night is long and it fails to usher in a glimmer of dawn.




CHA/Dng/te/as/APA

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