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[Published: Tuesday April 07 2009]

Bouteflika challenged by five candidates but voters’ apathy prevail

London, 7 April -(ANA)- As the Algerian Constitutional Council announced the final six candidates to run for the presidential elections due on 9 April, Two people were killed and five wounded in an attack on a barracks near the eastern Algerian city of Tizi Ouzou last month. The blast targeted community guards, members of a force set up in the early 1990s, when the government was locked in a bloody conflict with armed Islamist groups, which cost over 200,000 lives.

On 22 February armed Islamists killed nine security guards in an attack on their local headquarters near Jijel, east of the country. A week later Interior Minister Yazid Erhouni said that security forces had killed about 120 insurgents since 1 September 2008 and that some of the dead were leading members of the armed groups.

Algeria's highest court ruled that among 13 applicants for the presidential elections, 5 others apart from President Abdelaziz Bouteflika fulfilled the eligibility requirements. These are Louisa Hanoune, secretary general of the Labour Party; Moussa Touati, president of the Algerian National Front; Ali Fawzi Rebaine, leader of the nationalist Ahd 54 party; Belaid Mohand Oussaid, the leader of Party of Freedom and Justice; and Mohamed Djahid Younsi, secretary general of the Islamic el-Islah movement, according to the Constitutional Council President Boualem Bessaih.

The incumbent President Bouteflika is to seek a third mandate and if elected, it will be courtesy of a controversial amendment to Article 74 of the constitution passed last November.

For Louisa Hanoune, the 2009 campaign is her second, after an unsuccessful bid to unseat Bouteflika in 2004 who has the army’s support and endorsement.

Political parties supporting and opposing the elections are preoccupied with the possibility of a massive boycott at the polls. Opponents of the constitutional amendments hope to persuade citizens to abstain from voting, while the president's supporters are attempting to mobilise millions of voters. The issue of a popular boycott was first raised after the constitution was amended on November 12th, 2008. Article 74 was modified to remove the previous two-term limit on the post of president. Several members of the opposition refused at that time to take part in the April 2009 presidential race.

Low turnout is feared in Algerian presidential elections as voters feel that Bouteflika will be re-elected come what may.

Opposition leaders advocating a boycott claim the results of the presidential election have already been determined in favour of President Bouteflika, before being held. It was this eventuality that prompted Said Saadi of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) to refuse to run for office, and to push members of his party not to cast their ballots.

The Socialist Forces Front (FFS), led by Houcine Ait Ahmed, the self-exiled leader and the only surviving heroes of the independence struggle, took a similar line.

Also calling for a boycott is the Islamist Ennahda Movement, which said the general political atmosphere does not warrant the party's participation.

All in all, low turnout is feared in Algerian presidential elections as voters feel that Bouteflika will be re-elected come what may. 


JS/ANA/ 7 April 2009 ---


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