Thousands march in Algeria after controversial election result

Algerian security surround protesters during an anti-government demonstration in Algiers. Photograph: Ryad Kramdi/AFP via Getty Images

(The Guardian Online) – Huge crowds have massed in Algeria’s capital to protest against the election of a former loyalist of the deposed leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika as president in a widely boycotted poll.

Demonstrators who flooded central Algiers on Friday vowed to keep up their campaign for the total dismantling of the political establishment following Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s victory in Thursday’s election.

“Tebboune is worse than Bouteflika. He’s known for being one of the thieves,” said Meriem, a 31-year-old civil servant. “We did not vote and we will not back down.”

Mohammed Charfi, head of Algeria’s electoral commission, said Tebboune, a 74-year-old former prime minister, had won 58% of the vote, according to preliminary results.

Charfi said 40% of voters took part in the election, which state media cast as a high enough turnout to vindicate the decision to hold the poll in spite of a boycott.

The poll and its legitimacy is a crucial trial of strength pitting the ruling party and a powerful military, who hope it will end months of protests and instability, against an informal coalition of protesters.

Ahmed Mizab, a commentator on state television, said it showed the decision to hold the elections was “propitious and right”.

“The turnout is satisfying and it will give the new president enough backing to implement his reforms,” he said.

The opposition movement, which has mounted weekly demonstrations since February – forcing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down after two decades in office – said the contest between five officially sanctioned candidates was a ploy to protect the interests of the political establishment.

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