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On election eve, Bouteflika hopes for crushing victory

Video by Armen GEORGIAN , Adel GASTEL , Noreddine BEZZIOU

Latest update : 2009-04-09

On the eve of Algeria's presidential election, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is running for re-election, urged the country to get out and vote. Algeria's opposition has called for a boycott over alleged fraud.

AFP - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is hoping for big turnout and a crushing victory over his five rivals in the presidential poll on April 9.

"Vote, even vote against me, but vote," he has been urging the country's 20.6 million electors as he criss-crossed the country in search of a third five-year term.

His supporters have organised some 8,000 meetings, which have passed off without incident,

His reelection appears to be a foregone conclusion, not least because the poll is being boycotted by the traditional opposition.

He hopes that a score better than the 84.99 percent he achieved in 2004 will give him an enhanced authority.

"A president who is not elected with a crushing majority is not a president," he said when launching his candidature, the constitution having been changed to allow him to stand for a third term.

In 2004, turnout was a little under 60 percent of those eligible to vote.

Bouteflika's five mostly little-known and cash-strapped rivals are also appealing for a high turnout, calling on Algerians to vote against corruption, cronyism, social injustice and unfair divison of wealth.

"No winner can collect 50 percent of the vote (enough for an outright win) in the first round because I have seen how angry" people are, Djahid Younsi (El Islah, moderate Islamist) said.

Louisa Hanoune, the only woman candidate and leader of the Trotskyist Workers' Party (PT), is the only opposition candidate to have a political base and a programme she has put forward for years. But she collected only 1 percent of the vote in 2004.

Moussa Touati, president of the nationalist Algerian National Front (FNA), Mohamed Said of the moderate Islamist Justice and Liberty Party (PJL) running as an independent and Ali Fawzi Rebaine of the AHD-54 nationalist party, who won 0.63 percent of the vote in 2004, have all criticised the resources made available to "just one candidate."

Bouteflika has been playing up his 10 years in office, promising "stability and continuity" with a five-year 150-billion-dollar (115-billion-euro) development plan to create three million jobs and build a million homes.

To head off charges of electoral fraud, Interior Minister Nouredine Yazi Zerhouni has insisted that "the electoral system guaranteeing transparency and respect for the results of the vote is assured."

He said that African Union, Organization of the Islamic Conference and Arab League observers would be present. The United Nations has sent a review mission that will report back to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Zerhouni said that security measures to protect voters would be in place, in the face of potential threats from armed Islamists of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, active in some regions.

He said security forces had killed 10 major terrorist chiefs in recent months and captured eight others while six had surrendered.

During the campaign Bouteflika had raised the possibility of a referendum on a general amnesty for Islamists who "surrendered definitively" to strenghten his policy of national reconciliation which has led several thousand Islamists to lay down their arms.

Date created : 2009-04-08