Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looked set to win a fourth term with allies claiming victory in an election on Thursday, despite questions over his health and his rare appearances since suffering a stroke in 2013. Official results were due on Friday, but Bouteflika’s camp claimed the independence veteran backed by the dominant National Liberation Front (FLN) party had succeeded in securing five more years at the helm of the North African OPEC state. The 77-year-old Bouteflika, who has appeared in public only a few times since his stroke, earlier voted in Algiers while sitting in a wheelchair. He gave no statement and only briefly shook hands with supporters before leaving.
Presidential hopeful Ali Benflis said Tuesday that thousands of his supporters would monitor Algeria’s election, vowing to protest if it is rigged in favour of ailing incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is seeking re-election. Benflis is seen as the president’s main rival, and has repeatedly warned of fraud during the election campaign, describing it as his “main adversary” in Thursday’s vote. Speaking to reporters in Algiers, he said he had an “army” of people in place to monitor the poll “consisting of 60,000 people, most of them young men and women armed to the teeth with conviction. If the election is rigged, I will not keep quiet,” Benflis said.
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.