The next generation of Algeria's elected bodies will include more women than before. A new law, which establishes a quota for female candidates, will come into force with the 2012 parliamentary vote.
From now on, any list of candidates for legislative elections or elections to wilayas and communal assemblies must include a one-third proportion of women candidates. Failure to abide by the rules will result in the list being rejected.
The law, adopted by the council of ministers on August 28th, also states that any elected official who does not serve out their full term will be replaced by a candidate of the same sex from the list presented at the original ballot.
To encourage political parties to grant more opportunities to women, the state has promised financial assistance for political parties based on the number of women candidates elected to different assemblies.
The measure elicited plenty of reactions, but not all of them were positive.
The Labour Party was among those who questioned the quota system. According to MP Bousemaha Haouariya, "party lists should include equal number of men and women".
"Leaving gender aside, ability remains the most important criterion when choosing the best representatives for the people in elected assemblies," she said at the opening of parliament autumn session on September 4th.
Haouariya is not alone in her criticism. The chairman of the Algerian National Front (FNA) has spoken out against the quota system, describing it as "anti-constitutional". Moussa Touati explained that "Article 31a of the Constitution does not make any mention of a quota system", referring to the constitutional provision that obliges the state to promote the place of women in elected institutions.
Women's rights campaigners, however, have given the law a more favourable reception.
"This law will only put pressure on the political parties," he added. "Why doesn't the government apply it to itself? Why aren't there 16 women within the government?"
Lawyer Nadia Ait Zai, who is also the director of the Centre for Information and Documentation on the Rights of Children and Women, is one of the law's supporters.
"We need to see a National Popular Assembly which reflects the realities of Algerian society, made up of both men and women," she said. "We cannot continue to operate with an Assembly mostly made up of men."