Algerian Islamist warns against electoral fraud

AP News
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Posted: Feb 07, 2012 1:20 PM
Algerian Islamist warns against electoral fraud

Algeria will witness a "social explosion" if the May legislative election is marred by fraud, an Islamist leader warned Tuesday.

The published comments from Abdelmadjid Menasra echoed those by other Islamist politicians in recent weeks as Algeria gears up for the fourth set of parliamentary elections in North Africa since October _ with the three others won by religious-influenced parties.

Buoyed by electoral successes of their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, Islamists in Algeria are predicting major wins during the election.

"I am warning the Ministry of Interior against any inclinations towards fraud because this would inevitably lead to a social explosion," Menasra was quoted as saying in the Arabic daily El Khabar. "If we do not open the door to democratic change, we will open the door to anarchy."

He went on to say that "in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, it is the same people, with the same desire for change and the same urge to have Islamists manage the affairs of state."

Algeria's secular leaders, however, have spoken of an "Algerian exception" to this electoral trend, predicting the Islamists will not do well. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said he didn't fear a strong showing by Islamists but rather was afraid of an apathetic electorate.

The vote is in May but no specific date has yet been set.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has announced several reforms ahead of the election, including a law that allowed several new parties. There are now eight Islamist political parties, which could splinter the religious and conservative vote.

While Algeria has not witnessed the mass protests calling for reform that ripped through other North African countries, there is widespread discontent over the lack of jobs and housing in this oil-rich nation.

Algeria also has a history of rejecting political victories by Islamists. In 1991, Algeria witnessed one of North Africa's freest legislative elections, in which the Islamic Salvation Front swept the first round. That prompted the military to overthrow the government.

A brutal civil war ensued, lasting a decade and leaving 200,000 dead. Some experts say the war also left a distaste for Islamist politics.

"These people (the Islamists) pretend to have forgotten the difficult ordeal the Algerian people underwent with Islamist parties," said Mourad Chermat, a professor of politics at the University of Skikda. "The Algerian people oppose anyone who would exploit religion for political or personal ends."