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US:  No Reason to Question Algerian Election Results - 2004-04-10

The United States said Friday it had no evidence to question the credibility of Thursday's Algerian election, won by an overwhelming margin by incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Official returns Friday showed Mr. Bouteflika winning a landslide margin of more than 83 per cent of the vote, and the second-place finisher claimed the election was marred by massive irregularities.

However the State Department says preliminary statements by foreign observers indicate that election-day processes were generally transparent and free from fraud.

Spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters U.S. officials have no reason to doubt the monitors' assessments and have not seen the kind of problems that call into question the credibility of the results. He said given the country's turbulent recent history, the Algerian people deserve praise for the exercise in democracy.

"This was a genuinely-contested multi-party presidential election," he said. "And it was the first one in Algeria after a decade of violence and terrorism. I think the Algerian people should be congratulated on having conducted this election in a peaceful and relatively transparent way. And that's an important development, considering what they've come through."

Mr. Ereli said the United States expects Algerian authorities to investigate the fraud charges in a transparent and timely manner.

There was no official U.S. observer mission to the election, though Mr. Ereli said American diplomats from the embassy in Algiers did informally monitor the proceedings.

There were about 130 official foreign observers, mainly from the Arab League and the African Union, but there were also monitors from the United Nations, the European Parliament, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE.

An OSCE spokesman said its small monitoring team observed no obvious fraud, and that the election, while not perfect, was excellent by regional standards and that it is "pretty clear" the results reflected the views of the Algerian people.