Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared winner of Algeria election

Former PM declared president as thousands protest against vote that many boycotted

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was declared the winner of  Algeria’s presidential election on Friday. Photograph:  Ryad Kramdi/AFP via Getty Images

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was declared the winner of Algeria’s presidential election on Friday. Photograph: Ryad Kramdi/AFP via Getty Images

 

Abdelmadjid Tebboune was declared the winner of Algeria’s presidential election on Friday as thousands of protesters poured into the centre of the capital, Algiers, to denounce the vote.

The head of the country’s electoral commission said Mr Tebboune, a former Algerian prime minister, received 58 per cent of the ballots cast.

The election was the first vote in Algeria since the military ousted long-serving leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April after weeks of demonstrations against attempts to extend his two-decade rule.

The poll was held on Thursday despite calls by protesters for a boycott that kept voting stations empty in some parts of the country. The electoral commission said voter turnout was 40 per cent but there were no independent observers to verify the figures.

Algerian protesters, who have held peaceful demonstrations for most of this year, have denounced the election as a sham intended to continue military rule behind a facade of civilian leadership.

“There is a no president, it’s a charade,” chanted protesters on Friday as they marched in the centre of Algiers. “God is great, we did not vote.”

The Algerian army has been the main arbiter of power in the political system since the country’s independence from France in 1962, choosing presidents and controlling key decisions.

The army and some in the business community, which has been buffeted by 10 months of political upheaval, hope the election of a new leader will restore some normality but many Algerians are still angry.

Protesters burning tyres in Tizi-Ouzou on Thursday, about 100km east of the capital Algiers, during the presidential election. Photograph: FENEK/AFP via Getty Images
Protesters burning tyres in Tizi-Ouzou on Thursday, about 100km east of the capital Algiers, during the presidential election. Photograph: FENEK/AFP via Getty Images

“They have brought nothing good to the country since 1962,” said Hassan, a retired railway employee, referring to the country’s military elite. “We will triumph over them like . . . the Portuguese over Salazar,” he said.

Bouteflika link

Mr Tebboune is seen as a regime insider who served in various ministerial positions under Mr Bouteflika. He was sacked in 2017 after only three months as prime minister after a dispute with Ali Haddad, a powerful business tycoon who was close to the former president. Mr Haddad was sentenced this week to seven years in prison for corruption.

Mr Haddad is one of many political and business figures convicted of graft since the fall of Mr Bouteflika in what analysts said was an attempt by the military regime to address public anger about corruption and abuse of power.

But the convictions have failed to satisfy many Algerians, who have demanded a much more comprehensive overhaul of the political system. Instead, Ahmed Gaid Salah, the army chief of staff and de facto ruler of the country, pushed on with the vote and threatened tough action against anyone who sought to disrupt it.

Analysts said Mr Tebboune faced an impossible task. In addition to widespread anger against the election and the regime, he will have to contend with a worsening economic crisis brought on by the fall in oil prices since 2014.

Algeria is a major natural gas producer and derives 95 per cent of its foreign currency from the export of hydrocarbons. Falling prices have sharply reduced its reserves and restricted its ability to offer generous social handouts in a country where 28 per cent of youth are unemployed. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019