Algerian voters approved major amendments to the country’s constitution Sunday. The referendum took place on the anniversary of the start of Algeria’s war for independence from France in 1954. Capitalizing on the timing, one campaign slogan said “November 1954: Liberation. November 2020: Change.”
The National Independent Elections Authority (ANIE) announced on Monday that the revised constitution passed by 66.8 percent of votes. However, only 23.7 percent of voters turned up at the polls. This may result in challenges to the draft constitution amendment‘s legitimacy, though the referendum was not required to reach a set turnout rate to enter into force.
The low turnout stems from widespread public dissatisfaction with the referendum. In Tizi Ouzou, a bastion of the opposition, residents shut down voting stations. In response, election authorities annulled the votes from 63 of the 67 towns in the region. Pro-democracy advocates refused to vote because they believe the changes are insufficient to ensure a stable democracy and move the country forward. Islamist parties took issue with a measure on religious freedom. There were also concerns about COVID-19, which has caused at least 1,956 deaths in Algeria.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune pushed the vote forward. Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad insists that the revisions reflect the major changes sought by the Hirak protest movement. Changes to the constitution include limiting the president and members of parliament to two terms; creating an anti-corruption body; limiting state of emergency decrees to 3o days; and making it easier to create political parties. Further, some presidential powers have been transferred to the prime minister.