Bouteflika camp claims poll win in Algeria
Algiers, April 18, 2014
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looked set to win a fourth term with allies claiming victory in an election, despite questions over his health and his rare appearances since suffering a stroke in 2013.
Official results were due on Friday, but Bouteflika's camp claimed the independence veteran backed by the dominant National Liberation Front (FLN) party had succeeded in securing five more years at the helm of the North African Opec state.
The 77-year-old Bouteflika, who has appeared in public only a few times since his stroke, earlier voted in Algiers while sitting in a wheelchair. He gave no statement and only briefly shook hands with supporters before leaving.
"Our candidate is the winner," Abdelaziz Belkhadem, Bouteflika's personal representative, told Reuters without giving any details. "Without any doubt, Bouteflika got a landslide victory."
Ali Benflis, Bouteflika's main rival in a field of opposition candidates struggling to challenge him, quickly rejected the election results because of fraud but did not cite any specific accusations.
"I do not recognise these results, I condemn this fraud," he said soon after the closing of the polls.
Algeria under Bouteflika has been seen as a partner in Washington's campaign against Islamist militancy in the Maghreb and a stable supplier of about a fifth of Europe's gas imports.
But concerns about Bouteflika's condition and how Algeria manages any transition have raised questions about stability in a region where neighbouring Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are still in turmoil after the Arab Spring revolts of 2011.
Loyalists portray Bouteflika as the man who helped stabilise Algeria after a war with Islamist militants in the 1990s that killed around 200,000 people.
But several opposition parties have boycotted the vote - including rivals the Islamist MSP and secular RCD - saying it is slanted in Bouteflika's favour and unlikely to bring reforms to a system little changed since independence from France in 1962.
Bouteflika, a veteran of Algeria's war of independence, won the 2009 election with 90 percent of the vote. In 2004, Benflis lost to Bouteflika in a ballot he said was tainted by fraud on an "industrial" scale. - Reuters