By Amer Ouali, AFP
ALGIERS, Algeria–Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika clinched a fourth term on Friday, despite his poor health, winning a landslide victory in an election marred by low turnout and his rival alleging fraud. The 77-year-old incumbent who voted from a wheelchair on Thursday scooped 81.53 percent of the votes, while his main rival, Ali Benflis, received 12.18 percent, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz told a news conference. “The people have chosen freely, in a climate that was transparent and neutral,” Belaiz insisted. Benflis, who had already cited “serious irregularities” across the country on polling day, swiftly refused to recognize Bouteflika’s re-election.
“Recognizing it would be complicit in fraud,” he told a news conference, condemning what he called “an alliance between fraud, suspicious money and the bought media.” Bouteflika’s victory had been widely expected. His supporters celebrated in Algiers after polls closed late Thursday and Friday’s papers anticipated his re-election before the results were announced. It comes a year after Bouteflika suffered a stroke that confined him to hospital for three months and prevented him from campaigning for re-election in person. The leaders of Algeria’s former colonial power France and of neighboring Morocco were the first to congratulate Bouteflika. Growing Problems, Falling Revenues
The re-election of the man who has ruled the energy-rich North African nation since 1999 has provoked the anger of youths desperate for change, amid widespread corruption, high youth unemployment and sectarian unrest. He must now make good on his campaign promise of “a broad democracy” in which “every citizen will take part in the country’s development.” Analysts warn of rising instability in Algeria over social problems and the government’s failure to address them. “Bouteflika’s re-election will pave the way for a period of instability characterized by social discontent that will get worse,” said political analyst Rachid Tlemcani. “The powers that be, embodied by Bouteflika, will no longer be able to buy the social peace, as they did during his three previous mandates, because of a probable fall in the country’s oil revenues.” Discontent is most evident in the restive Kabylie region, where some 70 people were hurt in clashes on Thursday between police and youths seeking to disrupt the vote.