Algerian voters shun vote on constitution

Hamid Ould Ahmed and Lamine Chikhi
·1-min read

Less than a quarter Algerian voters took part in a constitutional referendum despite government efforts to encourage high turnout as part of a strategy to turn the page on last year's political unrest.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and the powerful military had presented the new constitution as a sign that they had addressed the causes of public anger that prompted mass weekly protests for more than a year.

The referendum result will be announced on Monday morning.

However, Sunday's turnout of only 23.7 per cent, according to the election body, showed lacklustre backing for a vote that many members of the "Hirak" street protest movement had decried as a sham intended to quash their movement.

The global pandemic may have also constrained voting, with Algeria recording more than 300 new cases on Saturday.

Days before the vote, Tebboune was admitted to a hospital in Germany after saying aides had tested positive for COVID-19.

Tebboune has presented the changes as partly addressing the wishes of protesters who forced his predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down after 20 years in office.

However, their demands - replacing the ruling elite, the military's withdrawal from politics and an end to corruption - have at best only been partly met.

The new constitution includes presidential term limits and more powers for the parliament and judiciary.

However, the military remains the most powerful institution in Algerian politics, though it has played a less prominent role since Tebboune's election.