Algeria opens election period in bid to ease discontent | News | DW | 15.04.2012
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Algeria opens election period in bid to ease discontent

The campaign for Algeria’s parliamentary elections has begun, with voting set to take place on May 10. The poll is seen as a test for reforms aimed at preventing an Arab Spring-style uprising in the ex-French colony.

Campaigning began in Algeria on Sunday for elections that are being viewed as a litmus test for the ruling elite's ability to avert a popular uprising similar to those in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

The poll would be "a decisive gamble which it is incumbent on us to win, because we have no other choice but to succeed," President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said in an advance message to mark Algeria's Day of Knowledge on Monday.

Deadly rioting in January 2011 coincided with an uprising in neighboring Tunisia that toppled Zine el Abidine Ben Ali from his role as president.

Participation seen as key

Bouteflika responded to that unrest by promising reforms, allowing 23 new political parties and creating 73 new seats in the country's parliament.

Turnout is being seen as the main barometer in the May 10 vote, which Bouteflika has identified as a "crucial phase" for the country.

The official election slogan, "Algeria is our spring," has been adopted in an effort to encourage transition over revolution.

Since the unrest, the government has accelerated work on building more than a million homes, which were promised in 1999 when Bouteflika first became president.

Opponents say the authorities' moves towards reform are superficial and that the elite are not genuinely prepared to relinquish power.

rc/tj (AFP, AP, Reuters)