The European Union (EU) mission in Algeria to monitor Thursday’s legislative polls will not be given access to the national voters’ registry, a government official said.
The national roll contains “personal and confidential information whose release is banned under Algerian law,” a foreign affairs official told the El-Moudjahid newspaper on condition of anonymity.
The diplomat was responding to repeated demands by the head of the EU mission, Jose Ignacio Salafranca, who said Monday it would be preferable if his team had access to the national roll.
Amid widespread suspicion of fraud by the regime, observers will only be granted access to registries at the regional (wilaya) level.
“The European observation mission, just like other observation missions... needs to pursue its work in a discerning, impartial, objective and discreet way,” the diplomat warned.
A total of 500 observers - from the EU, African Union, Arab League and American organizations - will be scattered across the more than 48,000 polling stations in Africa’s largest country.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika invited foreign observers for the polls, which he has billed as the “dawn of a new era” and come after reforms initiated in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring that swept neighboring countries.
President Bouteflika had said on Tuesday that the election was a decisive stage in Algeria’s program of reform, and appealed to people to turn out and vote.
“This election is a test of the country’s credibility,” he said in a speech in the eastern city of Setif.
The problem for the authorities is that many Algerians believe elections will change nothing.
A minority of Algerians are also using the election as an opportunity to protest.
Members of one group, the Movement of Independent Youth for Change, have been arrested for protesting against what they call an “electoral masquerade.”
On Tuesday also, the leader of an Islamist party contesting Thursday’s election said he feared fraud, arguing that the current voters roll represented 65 percent of the population, a higher rate than usual.
Turnout hit a record low of 35 percent during the 2007 parliamentary polls and, after a three-week campaign which saw all parties fail to draw large crowds, many Algerians predict the real turnout on Thursday will slump even lower.