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Friday, April 16, 1999 Published at 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK

World: Middle East

Algerian fury over poll result

Police moved to break up a demonstration in Algiers

Police in the Algerian capital, Algiers, have charged several hundred demonstrators protesting against the election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika as president.

Opposition factions had called a rally for Friday to protest against the result, but the authorities warned that any such protests were illegal.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Algiers: "Probably the most bizarre election ever held here"
Mr Bouteflika, who is backed by the military, was the only candidate in the election. Six others withdrew on the eve of polling day, alleging that preliminary voting had been rigged.

Official figures put the turn-out at just over 60% - with 73.8% of the votes cast going to Mr Bouteflika.

[ image: Mr Bouteflika: The lone candidate]
Mr Bouteflika: The lone candidate
In one of the first foreign reactions to the election, France has said it is worried about the circumstances of the vote.

Earlier on Friday, Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, one of six candidates who withdrew, confirmed their stated intention to reject the result.

"If Abdelaziz Bouteflika takes office he will have no constitutional legality," Mr Ibrahimi told a news conference.

Jim Muir reports on the first demonstration after the controversial election
He also questioned the official turnout statistics, saying the real figure had been only 25%..

The BBC correspondent in Algiers, Jim Muir, says Mr Bouteflika's victory may prove to be a hollow one and his first task will be defusing the complications ensuing from the election itself.

Bouteflika: Backed by army

Mr Bouteflika was backed by the military which intervened to prevent an Islamist victory in general elections seven years ago.

Jeremy Vine: "The forces of the state are proving they run Algeria"
The move sparked an uprising of Islamic militants and on-going violence that has left about 75,000 people dead.

Speaking before the poll on Thursday, Mr Bouteflika appealed for a large turnout - almost certainly aware that his administration could be fatally wounded by poor voting figures.

"I want the Algerian people to pronounce themselves with very great clarity and with a substantial majority so we can introduce the necessary changes," he said.

One of the candidates who withdrew, Mouloud Hamrouche, said in a newspaper article that voting had been "extremely low in the major cities".

The lowest official turnout was 5.11%, in the province of Tizi Ouzou, east of Algiers, which is a stronghold of another of the candidates who pulled out, Hocine Ait Ahmed.

Turnout in the capital, Algiers, was put at 31.27%.

President Zeroual, who is stepping down 19 months early, criticised the six candidates for pulling out and called their decision "totally illegal".

Related coverage: Algerian elections

  • Analysis: Algeria's democratic credentials suffer

  • Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sole contender

  • The candidates who pulled out

  • Eyewitness: A state of fear

  • Algeria: Country profile

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