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Africa

Turnout in Algerian poll reaches 30%, interior minister says

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-04-09

Algerians went to the polls on Thursday for a foregone presidential election in which President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is running for a third term. In many regions, according to the Interior minister, the midday turnout was higher in 2004.

Algerians are voting Thursday in a presidential election that opposition groups have called a “charade” amid widespread expectations that incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is likely to win his third term in office.

 

With the country’s main opposition groups boycotting the election, all eyes are on the turnout in Thursday’s poll.

 

The 72-year-old Algerian leader needs to win convincingly to enhance the credibility of an election victory as well as his authority over the oil and gas-rich North African nation.

 

Bouteflika is competing against five lesser-known, cash-strapped rivals, including two nationalists, two moderate Islamists and a veteran female left-wing politician.

 

Reporting from the Algerian capital of Algiers Thursday, FRANCE 24’s Armen Georgian said Bouteflika had overwhelmingly dominated the presidential campaign. “He’s by far the best-known candidate,” said Georgian. “He had financial resources that his rivals could not match and he has also had more media coverage than his rivals.”

 

Across Algiers, a teeming city of white-washed structures dating from the French colonial era as well as modern high-rise buildings, posters of Bouteflika have been dominated the cityscape over the past few weeks.

 

International observers monitoring the vote

 

Algerian Interior Minister Nouredine Yazi Zerhouni has promised transparency and “respect for the results of the vote” in Thursday’s poll and observers from international organizations including the African Union and the Arab League have arrived in Algeria.

 

The United Nations has sent a review mission that is expected to report back to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

 

While voter turnout is a critical issue in Thursday’s poll, Georgian warned that exact figures might be hard to arrive at. “There are only about 200 international observers spread around something like 120,000 voting centers,” said Georgian.

 

Stability, security and economic growth on the campaign agenda

 

Security was tight across the Algerian capital following calls for a boycott of the election from al Qaeda’s North African arm.

 

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility a series of deadly suicide bombings in Algeria last year, and seeks to unite Islamist groups across Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

 

Tens of thousands of security officials have been deployed in and around Algiers as well as the northern towns of Boumerdes and Tizi-Ouzou, which are considered Islamist strongholds.

 

Bouteflika has been running on a campaign to provide security and economic development to the North African nation.

 

The veteran Algerian politician has cast himself as the man who brought security to his country following the civil war of the 1990s in which an estimated 150,000 people were killed in a brutal fight between Islamist rebels and the military-backed government.

 

But many Algerian believe the real levers of power are wielded by what is called the “pouvoir,” or a shadowy group of high-ranking military officials who are believed to approve candidates and are the de facto rulers of this nation.
 

Date created : 2009-04-09

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