Algeria Shrugs

Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Algiers on May 10

An unexpected delay to the final announcement of the results in Algeria’s recent election occurred today amidst accusations by an alliance of Islamist parties of widespread fraud. The secular Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) president Mohcen Belabes, whose party called for a boycott of elections on Thursday, echoed the allegations in a press conference this morning.

It has now been announced that the former ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), has won 220 seats, with National Rally for Democracy (RND) coming second with 68 seats followed by the Islamist Green Coalition with 48 seats. The FLN has led Algeria since its independence from France in the early 1960s.

Algeria, a 37 million strong North African country overwhelmed with high unemployment, experienced some protests in response to the Arab Spring, but they were diminutive in comparison to those in Egypt and Tunisia. In an election authorities billed as a response to the pro-democracy movements, voters in Algeria went to the polls Thursday to elect members of parliament.

Around 25,000 candidates from 44 political parties competed for 462 seats in the National People's Assembly. 500 international observers from the European Union, African Union, Arab League and other organizations were present in Algeria to monitor the voting.

Although the elections were claimed by the authorities to be the most free and transparent yet, many young Algerians refused to vote. Among them Ahmed Bay, 29 considers the elections to be nothing but a masquerade for retaining the same people in positions in the government. He is convinced of a very high level corruption within the system.

His friend Fouad Menadi 32 years old, jobless and hopeless feels that no change can be provided by the same regime staff and government cabinet. He often sends applications to the bank to open a small business but never receives an answer. He claims to be fed up with the same candidates going into parliament and doing nothing to help young people to establish their own businesses.

Although the men do not like the fact that president Bouteflika cannot do a lot to get rid of this corruption, for them he is the right president who, since he was elected in 1999, has done a lot for the country.

Initially it seemed that the polls were experiencing the predicted low turn-out yesterday, when by midday only 15.5 per cent had voted. However that number later rose to 42.9 per cent according to the Algerian Government.

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