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Incumbent President Bouteflika Expected to Win Algeria’s Election Despite Opposition Boycott

Algerians go to the polls today (Thursday) in presidential election in which incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is expected to win a third consecutive term despite opposition boycott. Promising stability and continuity as well as a development plan to create three million jobs and build a million homes, Bouteflika is expected to perform better than the last election in which he won over 84 percent of the total vote. But opposition parties have called for a boycott of today's election claiming it would not be free, fair and transparent. International observers including African Union and the Arab League will monitor Thursday's general election. The government promised adequate security measures to protect voters in the face of potential threats from armed groups in the Islamic Maghreb.

Opposition leader Anouar Hadam tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Bouteflika's victory should not be recognized by the international community.

"You can tell that the election is just to confirm the status quo because since 1999 the Algerians have been deprived of a true democratic process. So, it is just a déjà vu and that there is nothing new. And if you have real observers you can see particularly in the big cities that you will have less than five to 10 percent participation in the election. The only challenge to the current president is the boycott," Hadam noted.

He said the incumbent government has made it impossible for the popular opposition to fully participate in the election.

"This is actually because of the situation in Algeria where there are huge blocks and there is no political life. Since the military coup in 1991 Algerians have been deprived from their right to freely choose their political authority, and having been accused of making the wrong choice so they see no reason to go and vote again," he said.

Hadam said there was optimism among ordinary Algerians when the incumbent president first came on the national scene promising national healing among others.

"And of course there has been one time when in 1999 when for the first time President Bouteflika came with an agenda of national reconciliation and of course the Algerian people had hope that really he was the ma that could change the situation. But it was just a makeup because he did nothing new and failed to live up to his promise," Hadam pointed out.

He said the military seems to be dictating the fate of all Algerians by not allowing any real democratic principles to be entrenched.

"The problem is what we call in Algeria the "deciders" because the deciding army generals decide the fate of Algeria. So, they are really afraid of the political system in the country when people are given the free will to choose their own leaders," he said.

Hadam said there is ample evidence to show that incumbent President Bouteflika will not live up to his word despite lofty campaign promises.

"Well he has been talking about promises for the last 10 years, but what did he do? He did nothing because the problem is that people are really fed up with lies from those who aspire to leadership. And so if there is any reconciliation they (politicians) have to reconcile with the ordinary people. They have to go back to respecting the will of the people and their freedom of choice and they also have to respect the people's choice to assemble and to form political parties to have a real multiparty system. The military should go back to their barracks," Hadam noted.

He denied the government's assertion that Thursday's election would be free and transparent.

"Definitely this election would be everything but fair and free election. Once you deprive the majority party of the Islamic Salvation party and if there were free elections they would have at least allowed the opposition parties participate in the election. But since they were all prevented from being part of this election, they are all calling for a boycott of today's election because they see that the election will not be free and fair election. So, it is time to change the situation and it is time to allow our people to choose freely their political authority," he said.                                     

During the campaigning, incumbent President Bouteflika vowed he could offer a blanket amnesty if the last militants from al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa renounce their near-daily ambushes or bombings and turn themselves in.

Many Islamists opposition leaders have called for a boycott of today's election claiming the election would neither be free nor fair. The opposition also accused the government of violating Algeria's laws after the incumbent president was allowed to run for a third unprecedented term.

President Bouteflika was first elected with the army's backing in 1999 and again in 2004 and reportedly enjoys overwhelming support of all key government players.

Meanwhile, Algeria national radio reported Wednesday that participation at Thursday's election is expected to be about 75 percent in some of the election bureaus for nomads in the southern Sahara Desert, who started voting early because of the huge distances they have to cross on camel to cast their ballot.

Some Algerians have voiced indifference to the three-week campaign that has seen posters of

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