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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 April, 2004, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Algeria press aghast at election result
Women walk past Algerian election posters, April 2004
Genuine landslide win or election fraud?

Algerian newspapers known for their criticism of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika have reacted with dismay at his overwhelming re-election win.

Some have echoed opposition claims of vote-rigging.

The state-run newspapers however hail his massive win as a vindication of tough security policies and a determination to reunite the country.

The independent El Watan quotes in an editorial Mr Bouteflika's rival Ali Benflis, who says the president's vote of 83.49 per cent "is a result which is worthy of Kim II Sung", the late North Korean leader.

"Vote-rigging remains, and has been adapted to the new constraints imposed by the multiparty system. It is less visible and crude, but has kept all its efficiency," the daily says.

A bleak future?

Looking ahead, El Watan argues "the president will be greatly tempted to seize additional powers and expand his sphere of influence in the next few years.

"The few remaining public and individual freedoms there are will be sacrificed in his insane quest for absolutism," El Watan adds.

Liberte too casts doubt on the legitimacy of the poll, despite the election being hailed as genuinely democratic by international observers such as the OSCE, and the United States.

Vote-rigging remains, it is less visible and crude, but has kept all its efficiency"
El Watan

"Bouteflika's electoral machine has produced miracles we can only see under one-party regimes," the pro-opposition paper says.

But it also carried a warning for the opposition, whose main candidate, Ali Benflis, head of the largest National Liberation Front (FLN) party, got only a tenth as many votes as Mr Bouteflika, who ran as an independent.

"Ali Benflis now knows that his political future is not just at stake but the very existence of the FLN," Liberte says.

The paper accuses Mr Bouteflika's of issuing threats during his election campaign against certain newspapers, and wonders "whether he is going to carry out the threats, or whether he will let them do their job freely."

Rights of expression

Press freedom is touted as a concern too for El Khabar. "We will not hesitate to tell the truth," it proclaims.

"The free people will not accept servitude or bargaining their historical achievements which have been made through the sacrifice of the best sons of Algeria and which are enshrined in the constitution, at least as far we know."

Le Matin likens the result to that achieved by Leonid Brezhnev, the former Soviet ruler.

"The Brezhnevian result obtained by Bouteflika has left the Algerians gobsmacked," Le Matin says, adding that "many people thought that the authorities were going to ensure that the outcome of the vote would be credible".

The election was won by sincerity, humility and respect for others
El Moudjahid

It explains the landslide not by the achievements of his first term, but by "the electoral process which has been initiated and controlled at all level by the current government."

Army stays out of politics

Le Matin also criticises the army for helping Mr Bouteflika by staying neutral and failing to use its influence against the president. "Its neutrality was not genuine," it says.

A political power in Algeria since independence from France in 1962, the army for the first time declared its neutrality in this election, a stance hailed by some politicians as a sign of democratic maturity.

The daily also blasts the opposition candidates: "Through their participation they have given legitimacy to the fraud."

A 'sincere' victory

The state-run national papers, such as El Moudjahid and Horizon, both welcome Mr Bouteflika's return to office.

"This was a victory simply waiting to happen," says El Moudjahid. "The election was won by sincerity, humility and respect for others."

"Victory is also due to the success of our foreign policy. Algeria has become a player on the international scene, we have shown strength in defending the interests of Africa and in the resolution of conflicts in this part of the world, and at home."

"The president's victory transcends ideologies and transcends regions," El Moudjahid says.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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