Algerian government announces higher turnout, election results expected Friday

Algerians went to the polls Thursday for what have been billed as the first free and fair parliamentary elections in over 20 years.

No results are expected until Friday, but the Algerian government has announced a higher-than-expected turnout — at 42.9% turnout, it is higher than the 35% turnout recorded in the 2007 election.  Algeria’s government, under longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was looking for a robust turnout to mark support for the limited reforms it has introduced since the ‘Arab Spring’ revolts swept the Middle East since January 2011.

Notwithstanding the government’s efforts, the fairly limited powers of Algeria’s parliament and widespread skepticism among Algeria’s relatively youthful electorate have resulted in widespread apathy about Thursday’s election.

The two main groups vying for power are the longtime governing party, the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale, or FLN), and various Islamic parties, many of which are competing under a joint ‘Green alliance’ banner.

Foreign observers reported “general satisfactory” conditions:

The head of the European Union observation mission, Jose Ignacio Salafranca, told reporters that polling was conducted in “generally satisfactory” conditions.

Foreign observers totalled 500 to cover a country four times the size of France — Algeria is Africa’s largest nation — and they were denied access to the national voters roll.

The Algerian electoral commission said it had received dozens of complaints, including some concerning two ministers who are accused of campaigning around polling stations and now face legal proceedings.

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