- Title: ALGERIA: Tight security in Algiers ahead of presidential elections
- Date: 9th April 2009
- Summary: PEOPLE IN STREET
- Embargoed: 24th April 2009 13:00
- Location: Algeria
- Country: Algeria
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVABYH0IHU02D3DCOE17O0U5E9QW
- Story Text: Algiers is adorned with posters of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and security is tight as Algeria prepares for presidential elections.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is expected to win an April 9 presidential vote by a comfortable margin in recognition, his supporters say, of his achievements in restoring stability after a decade-long civil conflict.
"I'll vote for Bouteflika because I've known him since 1965, when I was 14, he was in politics then. He's an ace, he's the only one who can bring Algeria into the big league, he is unbeatable at that," Abdelbader Djilali said. "I'll vote for Bouteflika because he has changed a lot for the better in Algeria," another Bouteflika supporter named Abdelbader said.
Bouteflika hopes to use his likely third term of office to end the violence still troubling his oil producing state. Offshoots of the Islamist rebel groups that waged that conflict are now affiliated to al Qaeda and mount sporadic attacks in Algeria, an OPEC member country of 34 million people that lies on the doorstep of the European Union.
More than 20 million Algerians can vote in 47,150 polling stations in Africa's second-biggest country and overseas. Almost one million can vote abroad and there are polling stations in France, Italy, Tunisia and Canada.
The turnout in the two last presidential elections in 2004 and 1999 was 58.1 percent and 60 percent respectively.
In a 2007 legislative election, turnout fell to 35 percent, the lowest in Algerian history.
The lack of serious challengers has prompted some government critics to predict that Algerians will boycott the polls in protest at what they see as a meaningless exercise.
"It won't change anything, nothing at all, the election is just to show that everything is alright in Algeria, so I won't vote. I am boycotting it," said one man, called Mohammed.
Some believe Bouteflika's refusal to allow a return to politics by the leaders of the defunct Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) who fought the state in the 1990s, undermines efforts to persuade the mostly younger remaining rebels to disarm. Normally tight security in the country has been heightened ahead of the elections.
Algeria plunged into chaos in 1992 after the military-backed authorities decided to cancel legislative elections a radical Islamic party was poised to win. In the decade of violence that followed, up to 150,000 people were killed.
Bouteflika helped steer the country out of the spiral of violence through a combination of uncompromising security measures and an amnesty to those rebels who were not deemed responsible for the worst acts of violence.
The violence has now declined sharply, though rebels who describe themselves as the al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb plant bombs and fight gun battles with police.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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