Algeria's ailing president Bouteflika, 77, wins 4th term

By Paul Schemm

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 18 2014 11:44 a.m. MDT

An elderly man prepares to vote as his family looks on, at the Abdel Kader High school polling place in Algiers Bab el-Oued neighborhood, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Algerians head to the polls to elect a president in a contest widely expected to be won by 77-year-old incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika who is running for a fourth term.

Paul Schemm, Associated Press

ALGIERS, Algeria — President Abdelaziz Bouteflika won a fourth term in office with a landslide 81 percent of the vote, according to preliminary figures announced Friday by the Algerian government.

His chief opponent, Ali Benflis, who garnered only 12 percent of the vote, said the election Thursday was marked by "fraud on a massive scale" and vowed not to accept the results.

Election officials said turnout was 51.7 percent of the North Africa nation's 23 million registered voters, down from the 75 percent turnout for Bouteflika's last win in 2009.

When asked about the accusations of fraud, Interior Minister Taieb Belaiz detailed the election's lengthy vote-counting procedures.

"Anyone who can overcome all that, I salute their intelligence," he said.

The Algerian commission charged with supervising the election as well and African Union observers said the vote went smoothly.

Bouteflika has officially garnered between 75 and 90 percent of the vote in Algeria's past four presidential contests — figures described by opposition politicians as inflated. Still he does have a degree of popularity in society.

Aside from being backed by the might of Algeria's powerful state, Bouteflika also represents stability for many Algerians after a decade-long civil war in the 1990s against radical Islamist insurgents.

However, after being hit by a stroke last year, Bouteflika was left visibly weakened. The most striking image in Thursday's vote was Bouteflika being wheeled into the polling station to cast his ballot — his first public appearance since May 2012.

The specter of yet another term for an increasingly frail president did spark a grassroots movement called Barakat ("Enough" in Algerian Arabic) to protest during the campaign. The demonstrations were swiftly crushed by authorities.

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