A Triumph of the Will.
The results of the Algerian presidential election are in. Abdelaziz Bouteflika topped the polls with 90.24% of the vote, followed by Louisa Hanoune in second place. The results are as follows, from El Moudjahid:
- Abdelaziz Bouteflika: 90.24%
- Louisa Hanoune: 4.22%
- Moussa Touati: 2.31%
- Djahid Younsi: 1.37%
- Ali Fawzi Rebiane: .93%
- Mohamed Said: .92%
The Interior Ministry recorded voter turnout at 77.11% — among the highest in Algeria’s history. In some provinces, notably Khenchela, it was as high as 97.42%. In Berriane, the Interior Ministry recorded turnout at 80%. Bouiria was around 66%, and Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou brought out 29.36% and 30.75% respectively. Here is the table provided in El Moudjahid.
It is interesting to note that turnout in Algiers and the other major cities (Oran and Constantine) are relatively low, even with what appears to be blatant exaggeration on the part of the Interior Ministry. Western reporters (who are mostly in the capital) as well as my own sources in Algiers state that the capital was mostly empty on Thursday. While 65% is rather low, especially considering that most other localities topped at least 75% or more. El Khabar notes that polling stations in the capital’s suburbs were “empty” during the day with residents “going for a walk”. El Khabar also reports on the power of propaganda in the election, comparing it to 2004’s rigged election, while quoting Yazid Zerhouni (the Interior Minister) as attributing the high turnout to improved “spring time weather conditions”. He also claimed that the administration did effective work to inform the people and that one did not have to be “a poly-technical [engineer] to guess why the people went out to vote for Bouteflika.” The President will use this percentage to bolster his mandate on power. The absence of UN or EU observers, even with the operation of AU, Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference observers, makes it difficult to challenge the results. The only results put out have been government results. Rebiane is planning to appeal the results in the Constitutional Court and United Nations. Touati is resisting an appeal for fear of tarnishing Algeria’s international image. (He he appears to agree with one of Bouteflika’s campaign points on improving Algeria’s image abroad.)
Candidates complained that their observers were not able to participate in vote counting and were blocked from stations. RCD, whose observers were present at 58 polling stations according to El Khabar, accuses the Interior Ministry of ordering local authorities to inflate numbers by up to 70%. It particularly mentions Tlemcen (RCD claims 28.13%; the government, 82.13%) and Sidi Bel Abbas (RCD claims 33.17%; the government, 90.65%). (More on this in Le Soir.) Moussa Touati’s party has claimed that soldiers and security personnel were allowed to vote multiple times. In Tamanresset, around Ghardaia and other places in the south several thousand nomads were deprived of their votes by means of the absence or closing of mobile polling stations (as is often the practice in these parts of the country).
El Khabar writes that for fear of terrorist attacks in the eastern provinces (particularly Bejaia, Tebessa) the national army and gendarmes were deployed in large numbers. Youths affiliated with the FFS and gendarmes clashed in Bejaia. Youths in multiple villages in Bouira set fire to poll stations and set off roads with burning tires following protests. At some stations young protesters were beaten back by security forces. It is unsurprising, though, that in Bouteflika’s ancestral village, Mehrez outside of Tlemcen, turnout was 100%.
With respect to the result itself. The Christian Science Monitor quotes the managing editor of El Khabar as saying the following about Hanoune’s second place finish:
“The administration used her because it wanted to show that women are a subject that is en vogue in Algeria, and that we are a modern country,” he says. “But Algerian society does not vote for a woman or a Trotskyite like Louisa Hanoun. There is no constituency for that here.”
For her part, Hanoune accused the private press of sexist and partisan bias against her campaign. She further criticized the FLN and the President’s campaign generally as advocating the “continuity of the one party state”. She also ripped into the opposition accusing Karim Tabbou and the FFS as being “adrift”. In Batna, it is alleged that observers from her Workers Party (PT) were denied access to polling stations and that in Blida PT observers found pre-selected ballots. Though she remarked that she was pleased with “enthusiasm” among the youth, the state still operates “like a cane“. She further condemned a general amnesty with investigations in crimes during the Civil War and denounced comments from a radio program sponsored by the Bouteflika campaign that during the War of Independence “the Arabs lost 1.5 million chouhadas, the Kabyles lost 1.5 million litres of olive oil.” She stated that “we’re going to win and the battle is just beginning,” connecting her struggle with Barack Obama’s victory and with Chavez and Morales in Latin America.
Moussa Touati grumbled about his loss, saying that it is “practically impossible to have a transparent election in Algeria.” Liberte-Algerie described Djahid Younsi’s finish as “dull and tedius“. Mohamed Said claimed to have achieved “100%” of his goals.