The main opposition candidate in Algeria’s presidential elections cried foul late Thursday night hours after voting ended, alleging massive fraud and vowing to reject any results announced. Ali Benflis told supporters at his headquarters that preliminary information indicated fraud on a grand scale with grave irregularities across the country. “Our history will remember this date as a great crime against the nation by stealing the voice of the citizens and blocking popular will,” he said, while fireworks from celebrating supporters of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, his opponent, could be heard in the background. The national commission charged with supervising the elections, however, insisted that aside from a few incidents, the election went smoothly with just 130 complaints. Turnout was 51.7 percent of the 23 million registered voters, according to the Interior Minister.
Benflis’ speech essentially amounted to a concession of defeat, though he vowed to use “all peaceful political means as well as legal avenues” to resist the results.
The election appears to have been the most competitive presidential contest in Algeria’s recent memory with Benflis putting up a spirited fight against an ailing Bouteflika who had the full might of the powerful state to make up for his weakened condition.