Algeria’s parliamentary elections drew 44.4 percent by the time polls closed at 8 p.m., Interior Minister Daho Ouled Kablia said in comments aired on state television last night.
Officials, worried that the vote could fall below the 35 percent turnout that emerged in the 2007 elections, had called on citizens to cast their ballots and help make their mark on the country.
“The Algerian people have demonstrated their political awareness and their capacity to be ready for the challenge to answer the call of the nation,” Ouled Kablia said.
The race, the freest in the oil-rich North African country since 1991, may offer Islamists stronger footing in the parliament, mirroring gains by their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia, where the Arab Spring uprisings that sidestepped Algeria pushed Islamist parties to the political forefront.
The Green Algeria Alliance, an Islamist bloc that groups the Movement of Society for Peace, Ennahda and the Islah party, expected a strong showing in the vote, in which 44 parties are vying for places in the newly expanded 462-seat legislature.
Growing support in the past few weeks “makes us believe we will be the first political force in Algeria,” Kamel Mida, the alliance’s spokesman, said by telephone from Algiers.
Algerians say is they mistrust officials who have done little to improve the economic conditions in the country, where the latest figures show unemployment at 10 percent.
“A lot of the candidates are implicated in corruption scandals and the only reason they’re running is to get parliamentary immunity,” 35-year-old Abdel-Nour Tejani, who is unemployed, said in an interview in Bab Al-Wad, the Algerian capital’s largest lower-income neighborhood. “Why would I give my vote to any of them?”
Algerians suffered through a decade of violence that left more than 200,000 people dead and was sparked by the military’s intervention in the 1991 vote that Islamists were poised to win.
The National Liberation Front, or FLN, which holds the largest bloc of seats in the current parliament and is the party of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, predicted the Islamists wouldn’t secure more than 30 percent of the seats.
The FLN and the National Rally for Democracy, or RND, are seen as the main contenders in the race, along with the Islamist bloc. The RND is the party of Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia.
Organizations including the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League have sent observers to monitor the vote. The results will be announced today.
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