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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK

World: Africa

Analysis: Bouteflika emerges victorious

The Algerian people have had enough of burying their dead

By Jim Muir in Algiers

Official returns from the referendum on the peace plan put forward by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika say it received overwhelming support.

[ image: The president received overwhelming support for his plan to end the country's brutal conflict]
The president received overwhelming support for his plan to end the country's brutal conflict
Mr Bouteflika could hardly have hoped for a better set of figures - they showed an overall turnout of 85% of the electorate across the country, with more than 98% of the votes cast in favour of his peace plan.

Algeria is a country where voting figures are often regarded with suspicion. But there is no doubt that the vast bulk of the people are sick and tired of the conflict and will back any project that offers hope of national recovery.

Overwhelming endorsement

In the days preceding the referendum, Mr Bouteflika toured all parts of the country, addressing rallies and putting his ideas to the people directly. That has clearly paid off. He can now say that he has what he wanted - an overwhelming public endorsement for his plans for civil concord.

As a by-product, it may also give him the legitimacy and credibility which were cast in doubt by the manner of his election in April when he ended up as the only candidate.

He can now shrug aside the objections of critics on both sides of the national divide and proceed with greater authority to implement a plan which is already in fact under way.

A new civil concord law has been passed by parliament and special centres have been set up where repentant rebels can hand themselves in. A number of Islamic prisoners have already been released.

Many of those who voted for the plan hope it really does mark the beginning of the end. But Algerian political analysts are in general only cautiously optimistic.

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