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Algerians in France head to the polls

Video by Richard TOMPSETT

Text by Malika KERKOUD

Latest update : 2009-04-06

Voting for the next Algerian president will continue until April 9 - and Algerians living in France are also taking part. But who are these voters, and what do they expect from the elections? FRANCE 24 met several as they headed to the polls.

There are nearly 777,000 Algerian voters living in France, registered in 18 electoral counties. They will have to choose between six candidates: outgoing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Djahid Younsi, Louisa Hanoune, Mohamed Saïd, Moussa Touati or Ali Faouzi Rabaine.


For some, it is an “honor” to go to the polls. Some consider it their “duty”, while others mainly hope that the voting stamp on their electoral cards will “speed up the customs paperwork” when they go back to Algeria over the holidays.


“Who, other than Bouteflika?”


Zohra, 55, has lived in France for 30 years. “Every time I drop my ballot in the ballot box, I feel like I’m celebrating Algeria’s independence in 1962 all over again”, she says.


For Kim, a young Algerian born in France, “voting to defend your ideas is a duty. In some countries, people aren’t that lucky".


Some voters came to the polls with their children, dressed in white like on the last day of the Ramadan.


Amar, another voter, admits that he knows none of the candidates other than the outgoing president. “I think the opposition handed the Bouteflika an easy victory”, he said. As a result, members of Bouteflika’s party present at the polls, certain of his victory, were already in a celebratory mood.


“I would rather vote for a woman than for Bouteflika


Rachid, 33, is a fervent supporter of Louisa Hanoune, this election’s only female candidate and spokesperson of the Labour party.  He explains his choice: “Many Algerians still reject the idea of being governed by a woman. But I would rather a woman president than a third term for Bouteflika. Hanoune prouved she was up to the job. Maybe life would be gentler with a woman president”.


Voter turnout, a key stake


For Algerian authorities, Boutelflika’s almost certain re-election is less at stake than ensuring voter turnout. After less than 33 percent of the electorate voted in the 2004 presidential elections, the authorities have deployed important financial and logistical means to mobilise as many voters as possible this time, in particular amongst Algerians living in France.


The Algerian ambassador in Paris, Missoum Sbih, calls on his compatriots to “participate in the vote, to exercise their civic rights”. “Vote for whoever you want, but vote!” he said. He met with many representatives of the Algerian community to spread this message, seconded in his campaign by several ministers from the mainland.


His efforts weren’t sufficient to convince Majid, 34, to head to the polls. “I don’t know why these people even bother” he admits. “We all know Bouteflika will stay in power until his death." A friend adds: "Voter abstention is the only way to oppose Bouteflika."


Illegal immigrant’s “spiritual vote”


Algerian immigrants with no legal French resident status were denied access to the voting centre. They linger outside to make their presence known.


Samir, 32, has lived in France since 2005. “We don’t have French documents, so we can’t vote. But we came today anyway, to carry out a sort of “spiritual duty”. One of his friends adds that he never voted when he lived in Algeria, but “it’s different when you live outside the country: to vote means you exist as an Algerian, and you’re proud of it”.

Date created : 2009-04-05