Amal Belalloufi, AFP
Last updated: 13 May, 2012

Algerian Islamist threatens revolt over vote results

An Algerian Islamist leader said Sunday that a Tunisian-style revolt was the only option after polls he charged were fraudulent and threatened a mass pullout of the smaller parties from parliament.

“These results closed the door on change by the ballot box and the Tunisian option is all that’s left for those who believe in change,” Abdallah Djaballah, who heads the Front for Justice and Development, told AFP.

His party mustered only seven seats out of the 462 up for grabs in the national assembly, according to provisional results for Thursday’s legislative election.

The former single party, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front, tightened its grip on power by securing 220 seats.

Djaballah had hoped to benefit from the so-called Arab Spring effect and emulate the electoral gains recorded by Islamist parties in neighbouring countries.

But Algeria bucked the regional trend, largely preserving the political status quo in polls that even saw Islamist parties lose ground, with all seven parties contesting the vote managing only a combined 59 seats.

“These elections are a farce. We do not recognise these results… They create a situation of insecurity and instability,” Djaballah said.

“Sooner or later, the only option will be the Tunisian scenario,” he said, in reference to the founding uprising of the Arab Spring which toppled longtime Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

Djaballah, 56, had warned of the risk of fraud before the polls and claimed he would expect his FJD to come out on top if the vote was “80 percent honest”.

The Algerian interior minister on Friday announced a higher-than-expected turnout of 42 percent, following a campaign marked by low voter interest and deep distrust of the political class.

Several of the smaller parties that picked up around 20 seats or fewer in Thursday’s polls have charged the ballot was rigged from start to finish, a view shared by many Algerians in the street and analysts.

The Workers Party, the Socialist Forces Front, the Algerian National Front and others all said they had been robbed of seats and threatened to challenge the results before the constitutional court.

“We are currently consulting the various parties that reject this election in order to reach a common stance,” Djaballah said.

“If they decide to withdraw from parliament, the FJD will be first among them,” he said.

Foreign observers listed some shortcomings but stopped short of challenging the electoral process’ overall credbility, while Washington hailed “a welcome step in Algeria’s progress toward democratic reform.”

Djaballah, twice a presidential candidate, occupies the ideological middle ground between the banned Islamic Salvation Front the regime fought during the civil war and the local branch of the Muslim Brothers, who are in government.

Djaballah previously founded two other parties, El Islah (reform) and Ennahda (renaissance), which are now part of the Green Algeria alliance, together with the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), formerly known as Hamas.

The MSP was the third largest group in the outgoing national assembly but has lost much credibility among the traditional Islamist electorate for accepting to work hand in glove with the regime.

“Djaballah was the only among the Islamists that the regime feared,” said Antoine Basbous, head of the Paris-based Observatory of Arab Countries.

“He is perceived as genuine, but he obtained the green light for the registration of his party barely three months ago,” he said, explaining that his campaign had had little time to take off.