The terms of the election process are fixed by the election law adopted by the appointed interim legislature, the National Transitional Council (Conseil National de Transition, CNT), on February 19, 1997.6 The 380-seat People's National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale Populaire, ANP, hereafter National Assembly) is elected for a five-year term using a proportional list system and secret balloting.7 There are 16.7 million registered voters, out of a population of twenty-eight million. Algerian citizens, above the age of eighteen, male and female, are eligible to vote. A total of 7,740 candidates, including independents and representatives of thirty-nine parties, are vying for seats. Four parties have lists in all districts: the RND, FLN, PRA, and an-Nahdha. The MSP and the FFS have lists in most of the fifty-six districts. There are approximately 34,000 voting stations throughout the country.

The number of deputies to represent each governorate (wilaya) is determined by population, with no governorate having fewer than four deputies. Some governorates are divided into two or more electoral districts. A number of deputies are to be selected by Algerian citizens residing abroad, who are also eligible to vote.

The ballot presents the voter with a choice of lists of candidates. Each list is put forward by one or more parties or is composed of independent candidates. The number of candidates on each list is limited to the number of seats apportioned to that district, plus three. Seats are assigned according to the proportion of votes won by each list in the district. Parties or lists that receive less than 5 percent of vote within a district do not participate in the allocation of seats.

Candidates must be at least twenty-eight years old, Algerian by birth or naturalised for at least five years. Male voters must have completed military service or be exempt. Independent candidates must have collected at least 400 voter signatures to be eligible. Both men and women are eligible to run.

Candidates and parties are permitted to have up to five representatives at the polling stations on voting day and during the counting of votes. The voting stations are staffed by polling officers appointed by the local governor. The vote count is public, and is conducted by private citizens chosen by the polling officers (Article 54).

Members of the military and security forces are to vote in their barracks (Article 63). Some parties have protested this provision. It is not clear whether international and domestic observers will be permitted to monitor voting in the barracks to the same extent as elsewhere.

Algeria's Constitutional Council is to declare the results within seventy-two hours after receiving polling data from around the country and overseas. Parties or candidates have forty-eight hours to file complaints about irregularities to the Constitutional Council, which has the authority to cancel or change results.8

After consultations with some of the political parties, President Zéroual established a National Independent Elections Observation Commission (Commission nationale indépendante de surveillance des élections législatives, CNISEL) that includes representatives of many political parties, officials from the ministries of justice, interior, communication and foreign affairs, and members of the semi-official National Human Rights Monitoring Body (Observatoire national des droits de l'Homme, ONDH) and of the independent Algerian League of Human Rights (Ligue Algérienne des Droits de l'Homme, LADH). The CNISEL is responsible for overseeing the election process, including voter registration, allocating to parties broadcast time and access to public gathering places, and the ballot count.

6 Ordonnance no. 97-07 du 27 chaoual 1417 correspondant au 6 mars 1997 portant loi organique relative au régime électoral. 7 The proportional system represents a major revision of the winner-take-all system in the previous electoral law of 1990. That law facilitated the FIS landslide in the 1991 legislative elections. That party had won 189 of the 232 seats decided in the first round even though it had won only 47.54 percent of the votes cast. The other two parties to win seats were the FLN and the FFS. 8 In December 1991, complaints of voting irregularities were submitted to the council, mostly in districts won by the FIS, but before the council could pronounce on the charges, the military-backed High Security Council, a presidential advisory body, halted the electoral process.