Ruling FLN party dominates Algerian general election
Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front swept up 220 of the 462 parliamentary seats in the country's general election, according to official results released Friday. Its sister party RND came in second and an Islamist alliance a distant third.
AP - Algeria’s two government-allied party dominated parliamentary elections and achieved an absolute majority, the Interior Ministry announced Friday, prompting cries of fraud from an Islamist alliance that had thought it would do well.
The National Liberation Front, the party that won independence and ruled alone for years, nearly doubled its number of seats in the parliament by taking 220. Its sister party, the National Democratic Rally, took 68.
The two parties now form a majority in the 462-seat parliament. The results are also dramatically different from elections in other countries in North Africa, where following the Arab Spring, opposition parties, particularly Islamists, have made dramatic gains.
The new parliament will help rewrite the new constitution and set the stage for the all-important 2014 presidential elections.
The three Islamist parties in the “Green Alliance” actually saw their number of seats in the parliament plummet from 72 to just 48, despite widespread expectations they would do well. The alliance had said Thursday night that based on their observations in polling stations, they should take between 80 and 100 seats and be the second power in the parliament.
Algeria was spared major pro-democracy demonstrations that rocked North Africa, but there is widespread dissatisfaction and the government had presented this election as part of a reform process.
Many Algerians interviewed during the campaign expressed skepticism about the political process, citing years of rigged elections.
Turnout in the cities was light. Overall the government reported 42.36 percent turnout.
“The Algerian people did their patriotic duty and showed they were ready to take their destiny in their hands,” Interior Minister Dahu Ould Kablia said as he announced the results. The huge number of seats for the National Liberation Front, or FLN, provoked gasps from journalists.
“The presence of the national committee to survey the elections and foreign observers shows the administration had nothing to hide,” he added. About 500 foreign observers took part in the elections.
Abderrazzak Mukri, the campaign manager for the Islamist alliance, said before Kablia’s announcement that the dramatic difference between their vote tallies and those trickling out of the Interior Ministry indicated that fraud was taking place. He told reporters in Algiers that “there is a process of fraud on a centralized level to change the results that is putting the country in danger.”
He blamed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and added, “we are not responsible for what could happen” as a result of the alleged fraud. He did not elaborate on the veiled reference to possible unrest. Algeria plunged into more than a decade of insurgency after the army canceled elections 20 years ago to foil a likely victory by an Islamist party.
In a subsequent statement, the alliance said if the fraud was official they would “take all the necessary measures,” once again without elaborating.
The statement said the effort to boost the results of the FLN and its fellow government party, the National Democratic Rally, “contradicted the spirit of political reform and the hope and trust of the Algerian people.”
Even 10 years after the civil war ended, the country still experiences attacks by the North Africa branch of al-Qaida in a mountainous region east of the capital. There were reports of a few isolated attacks during elections, but no fatalities, on election day.
Bouteflika has spent the past several months urging Algerians to come out and vote, alternating promises of bold postelection reforms after elections with warnings that foreign powers might invade Algeria if there were a low turnout.
In contrast to the long lines and enthusiastic voters found in other Arab countries during elections brought on by the Arab Spring, most Algerians expressed little interest during the campaign, citing the assembly’s lack of power and chronic election fraud.
Turnout hovered at 30 percent in major cities, such as the capital, Algiers, but the government announced that the final rate of participation for inside and outside the county was 42.36 percent of the 21.6 million registered voters.
A number of independent newspapers expressed skepticism over the government’s final turnout figure, citing a lack of voter interest observed across the country by their reporters in the field.
According to the Interior Ministry, 17 percent of the votes cast were void, often a way for voters to express their dissatisfaction with the election.
Despite its hydrocarbon wealth, there is widespread dissatisfaction in Algeria and frequent demonstrations and riots over unemployment, poor utilities and lack of housing.
Unemployment is officially at 10 percent, but increases to at least 20 percent among university graduates. About 70 percent of the population is under 35.