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Opposition cries foul as Bouteflika wins fourth term as president

(Reuters)
Filed on April 20, 2014

Preliminary official results showed Bouteflika had won with 81.53 per cent of the vote, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz told a news conference.


Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the ageing independence veteran already in power for 15 years, won re-election on Friday after a vote opponents dismissed as a stage-managed fraud to keep the ailing leader in power.

Sitting in a wheelchair, Bouteflika had cast his vote on Thursday in a rare public appearance since suffering a stroke last year that raised doubts about whether he is fit enough to govern the state.

Preliminary official results showed Bouteflika had won with 81.53 per cent of the vote, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz told a news conference. His nearest rival, Ali Benflis, won 12.18 percent, and national turnout was 51.7 per cent.

Bouteflika, 77, was already widely expected to win with the backing of the powerful ruling Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) party, which has dominated the political system since independence from France in 1962.

Western governments have been allied with Bouteflika in their campaign against militants in the Maghreb and are keen to secure Algerian gas shipments to Europe especially with Ukraine’s crisis threatening Russian supplies.

Bouteflika did not campaign himself, but loyalists praise him for guiding Algeria out of a 1990s war with Islamists that killed 200,000 people. The conflict left many Algerians wary of the turmoil that has swept neighbouring Tunisia, Egypt and Libya since their “Arab Spring” revolts in 2011.

Six opposition parties boycotted Thursday’s vote, saying it would not reform a system mostly closed to change since the FLN’s one-party rule in the early post-independence years.

Bouteflika won 90 per cent of the vote in 2009 and 85 per cent in 2004, when his main rival then, Benflis, alleged fraud on an “industrial” scale. Many Algerians say ageing FLN leaders, business magnates and army generals — known as “Le Pouvoir” or “The Power”, in French — have long managed politics in behind-the-scenes negotiations and see themselves as guardians of stability.





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