Islamists suffered a surprising defeat in Algeria’s parliamentary elections, bucking a trend that saw them gain power across North Africa after Arab Spring uprisings. The three party Islamist “Green Alliance” claimed Friday the results were rigged to keep them out of power in a country that has experienced decades of violence between radical Islamist groups and security forces. The Green Alliance was widely expected to do well, but instead it was the pro-government National Liberation Front that has ruled the country for much of its history since independence from France that dominated the election. The FLN, as it is known by its French initials, took 220 seats out of 462, while a sister party, also packed with government figures, took another 68 seats, giving the two a comfortable majority. The Islamist alliance, which took just 48 seats, less than in the last election, said the results differed dramatically what their election observers had witnessed in polling stations.
“We are surprise by these results, which are illogical, unreasonable and unacceptable,” said a visibly angry Abou Djara Soltani, the head of the largest party in the alliance, attributing the results to “those who would like to return to a single party rule.” Soltani told journalists that his alliance would discuss whether they would pull out of parliament, but said their most likely move was to attempt to ally with the smattering of other leftist and liberal parties in the opposition. “These results will send the Algerian spring backwards,” he added.
Algeria was largely spared the pro-democracy demonstrations that swept North Africa and the Middle East over the past year, cushioned by its huge wealth of oil and natural gas, and a population still traumatized by the violence that followed a military coup in 1991 when another Islamist party nearly won elections.