, ALGIERS,April 10 – Veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was handed a new five-year mandate Friday after official results showed he won 90 percent of votes in an Algerian election boycotted by much of the opposition.
The 72-year-old, who changed the ex-French colony’s constitution to allow himself a third run at the presidency, won with 90.24 percent of votes cast in the oil-rich north African nation, Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni announced.
"Abelaziz Bouteflika received 12,911,707 of the votes cast," said Zehrouni, adding that turnout was 74.54 percent.
Louisa Hanoune, the only woman candidate and leader of the Trotskyite Workers’ Party (PT), trailed in a distant second with 4.22 percent.
None of the other four candidates received more than 2.5 percent of votes.
However, even before the results had been announced, the opposition candidates said the election had been marred by voter intimidation and disputed the turnout figure given by state radio.
Thursday’s vote was held amid intense security with Algerian authorities trying to get to grips with an insurgency by radical Islamists.
The head of Al-Qaeda’s branch in North Africa called on Algerians to boycott the election in an audio message posted on an Islamist website on Monday.
The atmosphere appeared tense in the capital on voting day and armed Islamic extremists injured two police officers in a bomb blast around 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Algiers, locals told AFP.
Bouteflika, first elected in 1999, was to have stood down at the election, but he provoked outrage among opposition parties by proposing an amendment to the constitution which was rubber-stamped by parliament in November.
The secular Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) party, one of the main opposition groups, denounced what it called a "constitutional coup" and refused to take part in the "pathetic" election.
"Participating in such a competition would be tantamount to complicity in an operation of national humiliation," said RCD president Said Sadi as he announced the boycott in January.
Bouteflika also won the last election in 2004 by a landslide, with official results giving him 84.99 percent of votes cast.
As well as Hanoune, Djahid Younsi of the moderate Islamist El-Islah party, Moussa Touati of the Algerian National Front (FNA), Ali Fawzi Rebaine of the AHD-54 nationalist party, and independent Mohamed Said appeared on the ballot.
Ahead of the official announcement, Touati told AFP the turnout figure appeared to be "exaggerated" while Younsi’s campaign manager also said the official participation level had been inflated.
Said meanwhile said the vote had been blighted by fraud while Rebaine denounced voter "intimidation" and other irregularities.
Despite the criticism, the head of an observer mission from the Arab League gave the ballot a clean bill of health. Chadli Nefati said the organisation had been "beyond reproach" and voting had taken place in a calm atmosphere.
As well as the Arab League team, Algeria also invited observers from the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. There were no Western observers.