18 April 2014, Friday
Today's Zaman

EU observers say Algeria vote a step towards reform

13 May 2012, Sunday /REUTERS/AP
European Union observers have endorsed Algeria's parliamentary election as a step towards reform after the vote handed victory to the ruling party, bucking the trend of the “Arab Spring” revolts.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also praised Thursday's election, saying the government had given its people “the opportunity to express their will.”

It was the first time Algeria had invited EU observers to monitor a vote, a move seen by diplomats as a sign it was committed to a more transparent election.

Some opposition forces expressed suspicion the vote had been manipulated, a charge the authorities denied.  The National Liberation Front (FLN), the party of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, won 220 seats in the 462-seat parliament.  

Jose Ignacio Salafranca, head of the EU's observer mission in Algeria, said there were shortcomings in some technical aspects of the election but there were “as many positive points as there were weak points.”

“This election constitutes a first step on the path to reform which should lead ... to a deepening of democracy and human rights,” he told a news conference.

Clinton said in a statement that the election was “a welcome step in Algeria's progress toward democratic reform”.

“The United States looks forward to working together with the newly elected National Popular Assembly and to continuing to strengthen our ties with the government and the people of Algeria,” she said.

The RND Party, led by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, was in second place and a moderate Islamist alliance with links to the ruling establishment came third, official results showed.

Analysts had expected the Islamists to win the election. That would have brought energy exporter Algeria closer into line with the changes in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt in the wake of last year's insurrections.

Asked about allegations of vote-rigging, Salafranca said Algeria had a mechanism in place to expose any abuse and, if it did happen, it would be up to the judiciary to decide what action to take.

He said he was concerned the Interior Ministry had refused to give his observers free access to the national electoral roll. In past elections, evidence has emerged of the same people being registered to vote in several places, creating the potential for ballot-rigging.

The observers also noted there was a need to build up voter trust in the political system, a reference to the low turnout. Over half of the electorate stayed away on Thursday, with many saying their vote would change nothing.

“This election represents an important stage. We would like to encourage the pursuit of democratic reforms in the near future,” said Tokia Saifi, a member of the European Parliament who took part in the observation mission.

An opposition party that boycotted the election said the results had been manipulated, and called on foreign observers to hold the authorities to account.

The official vote tallies “perpetuate a tradition of falsifying the results of elections which has been carrying on since independence,” the secularist RCD party said in a statement.   

WORLD  Other Titles
Divers search for hundreds still missing in Korean ferry disaster
Ex-president apologizes for UNSC refusal to stop Rwanda genocide
Saudi conservatives protest Westernisation
Algerians trickle to polls in presidential vote
Search for Malaysia Airlines jet refocuses on drone scans of seafloor
Australian premier's resignation as a sign of less, not more, corruption
UK PM's former media aide tells court he heard hacked messages
Post, Guardian win Pulitzers for NSA revelations
Nigeria vows to protect May's ‘African Davos' in bomb-hit capital
Berlusconi ordered to do community service for tax conviction
Doctor to be tried in Britain's first female genital mutilation court case
Prosecutor wraps up Oscar Pistorius' grilling in murder trial
Syria opposition claims has evidence of chlorine gas attack
Egypt woman prof. targets young in bid to save Brotherhood
China seizes more than 10,000 illegal guns in crackdown
Macedonians vote for new president as general election nears
Complaints of serious fraud in Afghan polls exceed total in 2009
Indonesian parties in pact, clear way for top presidential candidate
UN climate panel warns emissions rising, blurs reason
Biden to visit Kiev to show US support for Ukraine unity
Iran rejects naming new United Nations envoy after US refusal
Death toll in fighting between Syrian rivals rises to 68
Venezuelan leader meets opposition
Egyptian police say kill two Brotherhood members in shootout
Murdered girl's mom says News of the World was force for good