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Algeria ruling coalition wins legislative elections

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Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika meeting with the French prime minister at his residence during an official visit, in Zeralda, a suburb of the capital Algiers. PHOTO:AFP

The party of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and its coalition ally have won a clear majority in parliamentary elections, the interior ministry said Friday.

Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN) won 164 of the national assembly’s 462 seats in a poll marred by low turnout, public disillusionment over a tepid economy and allegations of political corruption.

The FLN, which has dominated the North African nation’s politics since its 1962 independence from France, lost a quarter of the seats it won in 2012 polls, according to preliminary results from Thursday’s vote announced by interior minister Nourredine Bedoui.

But the FLN preserved its majority thanks to its ally, the Rally for National Democracy (RND), which won 97 seats, up from 68 in the last election.

Two opposition Islamist lists won 48 seats between them — their worst ever result since Algeria first held multi-party elections in 1990.

“For political observers, there are no surprises,” analyst Rachid Tlemcani told AFP. “The ruling parties take the top two places and the Islamists are on the bottom step of the podium.”

The official results will be announced by the constitutional council after any appeals.

The ministry said turnout was 38 percent, down from just over 43 percent in the 2012 election.

Thursday’s vote was marked by voter disillusionment over what many see as broken government promises on the economy and a political system tainted by corruption.

Officials spent weeks before the poll trying to drum up enthusiasm among electors, launching a campaign dubbed “Samaa sawtek” (“Let your voice be heard”).

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal even told an all-female audience in the eastern city of Setif to wake their husbands early, refuse them coffee and “drag” them to voting booths.

“If they resist, hit them with a stick,” he said.

But many voters were put off by a scandal involving candidates accused of paying to have their names added to party lists.

Voters have also been put off by perceived stagnation in the political system and speculation over the health of their 80-year-old president, who has rarely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke.

Bouteflika voted from a wheelchair at a polling booth in Algiers on Thursday in what was his first appearance before the international media since he was sworn in for a fourth term in April 2014.

Many Algerians pay little attention to parliamentary polls in an opaque system dominated by the office of the president.

“It’s normal to vote for the president, but I don’t see the interest in MPs,” said Mourad, a 45-year-old engineer.

Algeria weathered the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings with massive spending on wages and subsidies that depleted government coffers.

But a 2014 slump in crude oil prices forced the government to raise taxes and mothball many public projects.

Today, in a country of 40 million where half the population is under 30, one young person in three is unemployed.

Tlemcani said the disconnect between the elite and the youth had worsened in recent years.

“People are disappointed by the previous legislature, which has done nothing,” he said.



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