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Algerian opposition cries foul in local elections

Thursday - 11/29/2012, 5:07pm  ET

By AOMAR OUALI
Associated Press

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) - Algerian opposition parties cried foul over the North African country's municipal elections Thursday, citing the government's practice of mobilizing security forces to vote for the ruling parties.

Two hours after polls closed, Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia announced the turnout was around 43 percent, with participation light in the capital, but heavier in the more rural provinces.

Algerians voted for 1,541 district councils and 48 provincial councils for a new 5-year term. Although dozens of political parties are running, the councils have limited power in the face of officials appointed by the central government. The month-long electoral campaign was marked by a general lack of interest.

The ruling National Liberation Front, the party that won independence from France in 1962 and won May's elections, predicted it will do well, while opposition parties expressed fears of fraud.

"Special voting stations have been opened for members of the security forces who have received orders to vote for the FLN," said Louisa Hanoun, head of the Workers' Party.

Her complaint was echoed by several other opposition parties that said Algeria's million-strong army, police and civil defense services had all been ordered to vote for the government parties.

The turnout announced by the government was similar to that of the May parliamentary elections, figures which opposition parties at the time said were inflated.

The oil-rich North African nation has held elections for 20 years, but real power lies with the president and powerful military generals. Unlike the rest of North Africa, the 2011 protests of the Arab Spring had little impact on Algeria, which used increased spending and harsh repression to snuff out demonstrations.

In May's legislative election, the FLN and its coalition partner, the National Democratic Rally, took a majority of seats while Islamist parties did poorly, a sharp contrast with the results of elections elsewhere in North Africa.


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