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Ailing Algerian president re-elected to fourth term

Sherif Tarek Los Angeles Times

Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika secured a fourth five-year tenure Friday after amassing nearly 82 percent of votes, according to initial results announced by Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz.

The landslide victory in Thursday’s election was widely foreseen, despite opposition his poor health and from Islamists and leftist groups. Bouteflika, 77, is recovering from a stroke and made few public appearances.

Ali Benflis, considered the strongest among five challengers to Bouteflika, came in second, with 12 percent of the vote, Belaiz said. Several opposition parties boycotted the process.

Shortly after polling on Thursday, Benflis told reporters the electoral process was marked by “fraud on a massive scale.” He also vowed to contest the results, which have not been finalized by the Constitutional Council. Similar accusations arose in 2009, after Bouteflika was re-elected with almost 90 percent of ballots.

Benflis, formerly prime minister in Bouteflika’s first administration, ran against Bouteflika in 2004, garnering about 6 percent of the vote. He retired from politics but returned to run this year.

The nascent opposition movement Barakat, or Enough, predicted that if Bouteflika was declared the winner, unrest was likely. Anti-Bouteflika activists and police already have clashed this week.

Belaiz said about 51 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, and described the polling as “free and fair” and undisturbed by what he termed “minor” incidents.

Having been in power since 1999, Bouteflika maintains staunch support in part because he presided over the end of the civil war that erupted in the early 1990s after the success of an Islamist party led the army to intervene in the election. The brutal conflict involving the military and Islamic militants left tens of thousands of Algerians dead.

Bouteflika survived the so-called Arab Spring that began in December 2010 and resulted in several revolts in the region, including government changes in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.

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