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Algeria hails election turnout

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Amidst several minor terrorist attacks and fear of voter abstention, Algerian polls closed last night in what EU observers called a "generally satisfactory" legislative election.

With an overall turnout of 44.38% out of 21.6 million voters , the legislative elections kept everyone happy: both the government and the opposition.

Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia was clearly pleased with the voters number.

Yesterday's turnout "gave an indication of the level of maturity among the Algerian people", said Ould Kablia, whose department led a social media campaign encouraging citizens to vote.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika also seemed pleased. He too had become personally involved with appeals to voters, delivering five speeches since February.

Describing Bouteflika's last speech on Wednesday (May 8th) as "his testament", National Liberation Front (FLN) spokesman Kassa Aissa gave the head of state credit for bringing young people out to vote in force.

Aissa said Bouteflika's message was pivotal. "Our generation, which liberated the country, has served out its time, and should now pass the baton on to the younger generation," the president said.

Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia warned of potential foreign involvement should the turnout for the legislative elections have proven low, while FLN Secretary-General Abdelaziz Belkhadem talked about how high voter abstention could have ended up destabilising the country.

Election monitors agreed that for the most part the elections seem to have gone well, aside from several minor terrorist attacks, one or two irregularities, and some organisational difficulties.

According to reports, at least one person was killed in a bomb explosion in Bouderbala, west of Bouira. On Wednesday night, terrorists opened fire on a polling station in Ath Mansour, without causing any casualties. And, In Souk El Thenine, Ain Defla province, three were injured by a roadside bomb on Thursday.

As far as procedural discrepancies, Ali Moussaoui, vice-chairman of the national election monitoring committee, said that there were around sixty complaints, twelve of which could lead to criminal proceedings.

EU observer mission head José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra indicated that the elections had taken place under "generally satisfactory conditions, apart from some very isolated minor incidents".

"Between 85% and 90% of the reports from EU observers are satisfactory," Sánchez-Neyra said during press briefing in Algiers just after the polls had closed. "No fraud or attempted fraud was reported," the chief observer said.

All incidents identified by European observers "are minor and limited to some electoral campaigning activities close to some polling stations", he explained.

Election results should be announced late on Friday, but there are already some clear indications: the National Liberation Front (FLN) seems to have maintained its majority in Parliament, contrary to the predictions of the Islamists, who had been saying for months that they would sweep the board.

However, Prime Minister Ouyahia's National Rally for Democracy (RND) seems to have been the big loser in the ballot, to the benefit of the Green Alliance led chiefly by the Movement of a Society of Peace (MSP), which is still part of the government, but had recently left the presidential alliance.

The rest of the parties will share out the remaining seats among themselves.

The Islamist parties, seen as the favourites, particularly those led by Abdallah Djaballah and Abdelmadjid Menasra, did not "turn the tide" as they had promised. Observers say this is probably because they have only recently come into being, having only received official approval last February.

On Thursday evening, the atmosphere at the various party headquarters varied as the results started to reach them.

At the FLN's central office, there were cheers as the party's victory became clearer.

"I was confident from the outset and I said the FLN was going to emerge as the winner," Belkhadem told us around midnight. Among the Green Alliance, there was cautious optimism.

Even though Ahmed Bellil, who runs the monitoring group, persisted in saying that they would "win without a doubt", concern could be seen on people's faces as the results came through.

The alliance seems to have reached its target in Algiers, where it has probably gained 15 seats out of the 37 available in the capital. This is an encouraging result, essentially due to the popularity of the candidate heading up its list, Amar Ghoul, the current minister of public works, according to Abderrahmane Saidi, who chairs the MSP's consultative committee.

At the RND headquarters, the atmosphere was far from sparkling, even though the party has not lost everything.

Seddik Chihab, who headed the list of candidates standing in Algiers, looked gloomy. The truth is that the party saw some very poor results in the capital. "We can't understand it," he told Magharebia.

By contrast, Front for Justice and Development (FJD) leader Djaballah shut himself away in his office for the whole of Thursday, refusing to say a word to anyone, although he gave the impression of great dissatisfaction with how the election had been run.

The same attitude was exhibited by National Front for Change (FCN) president Abdelmadjid Menasra, who accused "certain parties", without naming names, of having encouraged "the two ruling parties" – a reference to the FLN and RND.

Other parties that achieved good results in the legislative elections seem to have been the Labour Party, particularly in Algiers and Kabylie, and the Front of Socialist Forces in the same regions.

It seems that the other political parties will have to make do with just a few seats to make up the numbers in an election that included 44 political parties, 25,800 candidates, and 462 seats in the People's National Assembly.

This content was commissioned for Magharebia.com.

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