Sun, Apr 12, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Algerian president triumphant despite allegations of fraud


Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika hailed his landslide re-election for a third term as a “lesson in democracy” on Friday, but opposition politicians and independent media alleged fraud at the polls, and the US government expressed concern.

Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni said Bouteflika won 90.24 percent of votes in Thursday’s election. Opponents had called for a boycott of the vote, which was marred by six terror attacks, one of which left a police officer dead, and unrest that left several polling stations burned.

Authorities put the turnout at more than 74 percent — unusually high for Algeria. Nearly 13 million of Algeria’s 20 million registered voters cast their ballot for the president, Zerhouni said.

“This truly is an eloquent lesson in democracy,” Bouteflika said in remarks carried by the official APS news agency shortly after results were announced.

He thanked Algerians for the “precious confidence” vote they granted him.

The 72-year-old president has suffered bouts of ill health. In power since 1999, Bouteflika was able to seek a third mandate after a constitutional change engineered by his backers in an all-but-closed political system.

Critics have said this could make him president for life.

Observers and Bouteflika’s five, low-profile challengers were angered.

“There was a lot of fraud,” said Jelloul Joudi, campaign chief for candidate Louisa Hanoune, runner-up in the election with a meager 4 percent of the vote.

Zerhouni said the few alleged cases of ballot stuffing would have had a “negligible” impact on the general result.

Faycal Metaoui, an editorialist at the French-language El Watan newspaper, said there remained “huge doubts” about both the turnout and result.

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