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2002 Election - National Assembly

During 2002, a new electoral law was implemented, with the oversight of the majority of the country's political parties, to remedy problems in the existing election laws that permitted the Government to remove candidates from party lists for "security" reasons. Elections observers noted that those selected for removal were more frequently from Islamic parties, questioning why a judge and a professor at the national military academy could hold the positions they do, yet be considered a national security threat when running for political office.

On May 30, the country held its second round of multi-party parliamentary elections since 1992. The elections were regarded as free and fair, although not problem-free. Candidates representing 23 political parties participated, along with several independent candidates.

FLN took control of the National Popular Assembly after an 11-year absence from power. It more than tripled its number of seats in the 389-seat parliament, securing 199 seats in total. Two conservative Islamic parties, Islah and Movement of the Society for Peace (MSP) share control of 81 seats, the second largest bloc in the governing body. The Kabylie-based Rally Democratic Culture (RCD) boycotted the vote, and urged supporters to support its contention that the election was an outright sham.

Voter turnout of 46 percent was the lowest since the country's independence. Problems were reported by credible sources at some polling stations, notably ballot envelopes filled with positive votes for the FLN. The Kabylie region launched a sometimes violently enforced boycott to protest the lack of transparency, increased corruption, and overt discrimination against Amazigh parties and candidates, successfully limiting the vote to 15 percent in some regions and 7 percent in Tizi Ouzou. In response to the protagonists of the boycott's use of force to block voting from occurring in the region while the boycott was in place, the Minister of the Interior publicly stated prior to the elections that votes would be cast in all voting locations.

Local elections on October 10 saw further boycotts by residents in the Kabylie region, with many protests leading to violent confrontations with the police. On October 5, the Arouch Citizen's Movement organized a general strike in order to reject the upcoming local elections. Riots and confrontations with security forces ensued, of which many were violent. Police arrested and detained Arouch (Berber political movement) leader Belaid Abrika, his attorneys, and other leaders of the "Movement of Citizens" while attempting to follow the court proceedings of Kabylie residents arrested during the riots. On October 15, Abrika was charged with inciting violence and held on a 4 month renewable basis until his trial. Strikes, sit-ins, and demonstrations around the Court of Justice in Tizi Ouzou protested the arrests and continued throughout the remainder of the year.

Under the Constitution, the President has the authority to rule by decree in special circumstances. The President subsequently must submit to the Parliament for approval decrees issued while the Parliament is not in session. The President did not exercise such authority during the year. The Parliament has a popularly elected lower chamber, the National Popular Assembly and an upper chamber, the National Council, two-thirds of whose members are elected by municipal and provincial councils. The President appoints the remaining one-third of the National Council's members. Legislation must have the approval of three-quarters of both the upper and lower chambers' members. Laws must originate in the lower chamber.

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