The ruling Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) will be looking to extend its run of electoral triumph as Algeria votes in a presidential election this Thursday, April 9.
Heading into the campaign season earlier this year, nationwide bated breath greeted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's long-rumoured decision to seek re-re-election after having served 10 years already at the helm. [That's Bouteflika in an AFP photo at left, gesturing to a crowd to "keep it real."]
Taking a page from Hugo Chavez, Bouteflika deftly navigated through the Athenian murk that is "legislated term limits" and managed to put himself on the ballot for a third term, which he is likely to win. Last time around he won with a mere 85% of the vote.
But there are 5 other contenders vying for the podium in Algiers, none of whom is more interesting than Louisa Hanoune, who two days past her 55th birthday is on the ballot for the Trotskyist Algeria Worker's Party trying to become the Arab World's first female leader.
If she does somehow win, her presence will certainly alter the optics of the League of Arab States, whose all-male leaders are pictured together at left during a recent pan-Arab summit. [Note: Bouteflika, if you can't recognize him, is by far the shortest guy in this photo.]
Ms. Hanoune has been taking her populist message for political and economic reform around the country, hosting more than 40 rallies which have attracted especially large crowds of Algerian youth. She wants to reform (i.e. liberate from cronyism) the political-party system and the civil service in Algeria, regulate the emerging private economy, and institute long-overdue land-ownership reforms.
But she probably won't win. Violence has marred this election season, which seems certain to ensure a more carefully orchestrated "free" election by the ruling FLN, as well as a surge in support for the military-backed Bouteflika who seems to many voters like the go-to guy for keeping Algeria out of further civil war.
Still, Ms. Hanoune has a growing popularity and a strong, unifying leftist-nationalist agenda (which attracts that emerging demographic in Algeria that is both tired of the FLN and ever wary of the Islamists). One can hope.
[Update Apr 10: Bouteflika wins 3rd term with 90% of vote.]