Faces of female candidates in Algeria's elections erased


Political parties in Algeria are gearing up for parliamentary elections on May 4. But on certain campaign posters, female candidates have been presented... without faces, unlike male candidates. The resulting outpouring of criticism has forced the election authority to demand that the offending political parties change their posters. 

Several photos of the campaign posters have been circulating on social media. One of them shows the list of electoral candidates for the Islamist party "Parti de l’équité de la proclamation" [Fairness of Declaration party] in the province of Adrar, in the south west of the country. On the poster there is a person wearing a hijab, who works at the Department of Public Works  – but the face has been rubbed out.

This poster for the Parti de l'équité et de la proclamation is one of the ones that has been shared the most on social media.

But this is not the only case. On the campaign poster for the Front des forces socialistes [Socialist forces front], an opposition party, three women are shown who all have their faces rubbed out. However, in this instance, it's not just that their faces have been erased – but that they've all been replaced by the same generic drawing of a woman in hijab. 

A poster for the Front des forces socialistes (FFS).

It's the same thing on the list of independent candidates, where there are two "ghost women" – one retired and the other a state engineer in agronomy – but this time, they are not veiled. 

The poster for a list of independent candidates.

A poster for the Parti algérien vert pour le développement [Algerian green party for development]. Source: CNN.

A poster for the Alliance Nationale Republicaine [National Republican Alliance]. Source: Al-quds.

Strong criticism

These posters have caused controversy in Algeria, where the electoral campaign was officially started on April 9. The daily newspaper El Watan wrote, "the phenomenal appearance of 'faceless candidates' is illustrative of the unexpected progress of Islamist ideals in society".

The newspaper also writes that it was only in a few cases that the women themselves refused to include their photo.

Which is why voters are calling into question the legitimacy of these women's candidacy: will they be capable of standing up for themselves if they're not even capable of fully admitting to their running for political office?

Comments published on Facebook under an article talking about the "ghost women". The first reads: "Faceless candidates can quickly turn into elected officials without opinions and representatives without weight... who knows, perhaps they will even agree to be MPs without a salary... I'm joking but all we can do is joke around. This has to be the joke of the century".

The second reads: "Vote for ghosts? They must have a lot to hide, these "women"".

Some voters are even suspecting that the female candidates are just a way of ensuring that political parties fulfil the gender quota, which is fixed at 30 percent as the amount of candidates who must be female. 

A "highly regrettable move"

The president of the Parti de l'équité et de la proclamation, Naïma Salhi, stated that the female candidates had chosen to hide their faces in order to conserve "the stability of their relationship or of their family".

In the face of criticism, the Front des forces socialistes party published a statement admitting that it was a "highly regrettable move" on the part of their communications team. They said, "The party has demanded that the posters are taken down immediately and strongly condemns this type of proceeding, which is incompatible with the principles and values of the party."

Five parties put on formal notice over “ghost candidates” 

On Monday, April 17, warning was finally given to the five parties who had displayed posters featuring “ghost candidates” in the Wilaya in Bordj Bou Arreridj when the highest Algerian authority for election oversight put them on “formal notice”. They were given 48 hours to reprint posters featuring photos of all candidates.

"The prime examples of 'ghost women' were recorded in this Wilaya,” explained the coordinator of the jurisdiction, Hassan Noui. The guilty parties came from a wide political landscape and included the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), the Ennahda-Adala-Bina Union (Islamist), the Algerian National Front (FNA, nationalist), the Algerian Front for Development, Liberty and Justice (FADLJ, Islamist) and the National Militancy Front (FMN).

When contacted by the Algerian national press agency, the APS, the heads of these five parties refused to comment on the topic.

However, the local election oversight coordinator reported that all parties had hastened to change their posters and to put up new ones – this time with photos of all candidates.

This isn't the first time there have been sightings of these "ghost candidates". The Socialist Forces Front printed a "ghost candidate" on an electoral list in the town of Ghardaïa back in legislative elections held in May 2012.

Last October, a similar debate occurred in Morocco ahead of legislative elections because only photos of male candidates were included on party pamphlets.