Algiers: The ruling National Liberation Front won Algeria’s municipal and regional elections, Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia announced on Friday, in a widely-expected result.
Voter turnout, considered the only real issue in Thursday’s polls, was officially pegged at 44.27 per cent, described by Kablia as “acceptable”, as thousands had to brave poor weather conditions to cast their ballots.
The FLN, which holds a majority in the National Assembly and to which President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika belongs, won an outright majority in 159 municipalities, out of 1,541, and scored the highest vote in 832 communes.
The Rally for National Democracy (RND) of former prime minister Ahmad Ouyahia, another party in the presidential alliance, came second, winning an outright majority in 132 municipalities and highest score in 132 communes.
The FLN and RND were followed by independents, which took control of 17 municipalities, and by secular opposition party the Rally for Culture and Democracy, which won 13 communes outright in the eastern Kabylie region, its heartland.
A surprise winner in the elections was the new Popular Algerian Movement, which won 12 communes.
Founded by Environment Minister Amara Benyounes, the party was authorised under political reforms introduced by the president in April last year, in the wake of Arab Spring unrest.
Among the reforms was an agreement to allow for the formation of dozens of new political parties, some of which took part in the May election in which the FLN won 221 of 462 parliamentary seats, amid claims of widespread fraud.
Senior FLN officials had said they were expecting an “overwhelming” victory on Thursday, and a number of opposition parties, including Algeria’s oldest, the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), denounced irregularities ahead of voting.
Kablia admitted the election had been clouded by a number of incidents.
In the municipality of Takerboust, 125 kilometres southeast of Algiers, disaffected youths seeking to disrupt voting clashed with police, with at least 20 injured, according to local media.
And voting was briefly suspended in Haizer, in the same region, by residents protesting against the military presence in their commune.
No calls to shun the ballot were officially registered.
But the leader of the now-banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Abassi Madani, called from his base in Qatar for a “massive boycott” of the vote, “to expose the Algerian regime and its oppressive practices”.