Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power for 15 years and is confined to a wheelchair, has won a fourth term with 81.53% of the vote, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz announced on Friday.
Bouteflika’s closest rival Ali Benflis, who came second with 12.18% of votes cast, refused to recognize the incumbent’s re-election.
“I do not recognize the result. Recognizing it would be complicit in fraud,” Benflis told a news conference after being declared runner-up with 12.18% of the vote.
The 69-year-old former Prime Minister, who had already cited “serious irregularities” on polling day, condemned what he called “an alliance between fraud, suspicious money and the bought media.”
The Interior Minister said that voter turnout stood at 51.3%, highlighting the “free and fair” electoral process.
He said some “minor” incidents did not amount to a major issue that could disrupt the elections. Violence erupted in the eastern region of Kabyle and several protesters erupted in the capital Algiers against Bouteflika running for a fourth term.
Bouteflika, 77, had been widely expected to win a fourth term, even though he appeared in public rarely since a stroke last year. Six opposition parties boycotted the vote or denounced Thursday’s election as a fraud.
The results came after a three-week election campaign that saw a spirited effort by Benflis and his supporters. He has vowed to contest the results.
Since suffering from a stroke last year, there have been concerns about the President’s ability to run the country, which is a key energy supplier for Europe.
Bouteflika did not campaign himself, but loyalists praise him for guiding Algeria out of a 1990s war with Islamists that killed 200,000 people. The conflict left many Algerians wary of the turmoil that has swept neighboring Tunisia, Egypt and Libya since their “Arab Spring” revolts in 2011.
Many Algerians say aging FLN leaders, business magnates and army generals - known as “Le Pouvoir” or “The Power,” in French - have long managed politics in behind-the-scenes negotiations and see themselves as guardians of stability.
Bouteflika said in the past it was time for his generation to step aside, but his appearance in a wheelchair at a polling station was a striking image for many Algerians.
Analysts say that after years of state-controlled policies, the OPEC member state needs reforms to open up its economy to more foreign investment and attract more big oil operators to revive its stagnant energy production.
Source: AFP; Reuters