Algerian Moderate Islamist Coalition Suffers Setback

Posted May 11th, 2012 at 12:05 pm (UTC-5)
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A moderate Islamist coalition suffered a setback Friday when the party that has ruled Algeria for 50 years emerged as the top vote-getter in preliminary election results.

The National Liberation Front, Algeria's historical dominant party, won 220 of the 462 seats in the legislative polls that took place Thursday, up from 136 seats it currently holds. The results were announced Friday by Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia at a press conference.

An alliance of moderate Islamists claimed 66 seats and claimed “widespread fraud.”

But the head of a team of European Union election monitors said that there were few irregularities.

About half of the 44 political parties that competed were legalized this year. A stronger Islamist victory, in Algeria's first elections since the Arab Spring, would have echoed trends in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

Opposition activists citing ongoing distrust of promised government reforms had urged voters to stay away from the polls.

The interior ministry said voter turnout was 44-percent, compared to a record low turnout of 37-percent in the 2007 elections.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had announced a series of constitutional reforms after pro-democracy protests erupted last year.

Also, his government, for the first time, admitted international election observers as part of efforts to boost transparency.

The new parliament will vote on proposed constitutional changes and prepare for presidential elections in 2014.