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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK
Algerian PM to form government
Children playing with cancelled ballot papers
The voting rate slumped to 2% in the Berber capital
President Bouteflika of Algeria has asked the outgoing prime minister, Ali Benflis, to form a new government after his party was declared the winner of Thursday's parliamentary election.

Mr Benflis' party - the National Liberation Front, which has been in government ever since independence - won just over half of the 389 seats in the national assembly.

The biggest party in the outgoing parliament, the National Democratic Rally, won only 48.

Correspondents say that to many Algerians, the new government will be little more than a reshuffle within the ruling establishment.

Political throwback

The BBC's Peter Hiett, in Algiers, says that as the political dust settles, the picture that is emerging bears a strong resemblance to the Algeria of the 1980s.

An elderly Algerian voter
On his own: Many Algerians backed the opposition's poll boycott

The FLN - the party that won the independence war - is now in firm control of civil government and the armed forces.

Our correspondent says the mainly Berber democratic opposition is as marginalised as ever, and there seems little improvement to the problems of poverty, corruption and unemployment.

The overall turnout was recorded at 47.49% - the lowest since independence in 1962. In Tizi Ouzou, the capital of the Berber-speaking region of Kabylie, just 1.85% of voters bothered to vote.

The FLN was the sole ruling party from 1962 until 1991 and has ruled in coalition since.

The opposition parties had predicted election fraud and are expected to denounce the results.

Analysts said many people had decided not to vote because they believed the election would change nothing.

Police clashes

Many polling stations failed to open in Tizi Ouzou as riot police clashed with youths.

Algerian election
23 parties and 1,266 independent candidates fighting for 389 seats
1991 election sparked civil war when the military regime rejected Islamist victory
1997 election marred by fraud allegations
Special election watchdog has been set up for this election

The elections were for the first time being held under a system of proportional representation which, the Algerian Government said, was to prevent a repeat of electoral fraud which occurred in 1997.

Critics of the regime said the election was just a show of pluralism to satisfy the West and give the appearance of democracy.

The US condemned the election violence, but said it supported moves towards democracy by Algeria.

But our correspondent says that parliament in Algeria is a powerless body with little influence over policy.

Key issues are decided by a secretive group of senior army and intelligence officers whom Algerians call "les decideurs", or the decision-makers.

See also:

01 Jun 02 | Middle East
31 May 02 | Middle East
31 May 02 | Middle East
28 May 02 | Media reports
29 May 02 | Middle East
18 Mar 02 | Country profiles
18 Mar 02 | Middle East
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