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Ruling NLF Makes Gains in Algerian Poll

Published: June 4, 2002 (Issue # 774)


ALGIERS, Algeria - The party that governed Algeria for nearly 30 years before the introduction of a multiparty system swept legislative elections that were marred by violence, a boycott and the lowest turnout ever.

The National Liberation Front, led by Prime Minister Ali Benflis, more than tripled its number of seats in the 389-seat parliament, moving from 64 to 199 seats, officials announced Friday.

Thursday's election was boycotted by key opposition parties and marred by unrest among the country's sizable Berber minority. Voter turnout - 46 percent - was the lowest since Algeria gained independence from France in 1962.

The participation rate and election-day riots in the Berber heartland of Kabyle, east of Algiers, cast a pall over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's efforts to bring stability and a further measure of democracy to Algeria, where real power lies with the military.

Despite cautious steps toward increased democracy, the military is still widely viewed as the main power broker in Algeria, which is struggling under a decade-old Islamic insurgency, an insurrection in the Berber region, corruption and a hobbled economy, despite its oil and gas wealth.

The FLN's main coalition partner, the Rally for National Democracy, came in second with 48 seats, down sharply from 155 in the last chamber.

The FLN first came to power after the revolutionary movement with the same name led Algeria's war for independence against France. It remained in power until a new 1989 constitution legalized other political parties.

The FLN fell out of favor as other forces, led by Islamic fundamentalists, gained ground. Benflis, who campaigned actively ahead of the vote, rejuvenated the party. Some newspapers suggested he could become Bouteflika's successor.

Two moderate Islamic parties took 81 seats between them, thus becoming the second-strongest political force in the legislature.

The leader of Islah, a moderate Islamic party that won 43 of the 81 seats, claimed the election had been marked by fraud and said he would hand over evidence to authorities.

"Official results do not reflect the will of the nation,'' Abdallah Djeballah told a news conference. He would not elaborate on the fraud allegation.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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