Algeria’s ‘Fresh Start’ Fades Amid COVID-19, Low Referendum Turnout

Amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the week following the referendum, Algeria’s government faces an uphill battle to gain any semblance of trust.

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Rabat – Less than one in four citizens cast a vote in Algeria’s referendum to approve a revised constitution as the country struggles with COVID-19. Following the vote, Algeria’s top election official Mohamed Charfi told state television that a mere 23.7% of Algerians turned out for the referendum. 

Amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the week following the referendum, Algeria’s government faces an uphill battle to gain any semblance of trust with the majority of citizens. The government faces a new rise in COVID-19 cases while its leader receives treatment in Germany.


High voter turnout was a primary concern of Algeria’s government in the run-up to the referendum to approve a new constitution. Officials employed lofty rhetoric, proposing a “new Algeria” and a direct response to the grievances expressed in the Hirak protests. The government hoped to claim a strong mandate for the new constitution.

The referendum’s initial result appeared to be a victory for the government. Algeria’s electoral board announced 66.8% of voters in the referendum backed the new constitution. Yet the “new Algeria” clearly commences in an air of great distrust as the high turnout the government pushed for never materialized while COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

Algerians have expressed little faith in the country’s new supreme law. Few saw the document as a path towards change after decades of blatant disregard for the country’s constitution. By refusing to vote, Algerians have shown a weariness of government promises and a clear reluctance to provide any form of mandate to the government of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.


The disconnect between the hardships of the Algerian people and the comfort of its elite was emphasized by the absence of President Tebboune during the vote. The president is receiving top-of-the-line COVID-19 treatment in Germany, a luxury few Algerians can afford. 

Amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, Algeria’s government faces an uphill battle to regain the people’s trust. The renewed possibility of a lockdown worries many in Algeria, compounded by statements of Minister of Health Abderrahmane Benbouzid.

Benbouzid stated on Thursday that “in the event of a negative development of the situation, more stringent measures will be taken by the public authorities in the coming days.” He described Algeria’s second wave of COVID-19 infections as potentially “very serious and more ferocious,” despite Friday prayers again being allowed.

Hospitals are at risk of becoming overwhelmed with new cases amid a renewed health crisis. Following a referendum marred by distrust, the new crisis is likely to dampen any hope for a fresh start for Algeria following the contentious referendum.

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