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Algeria ruling party targets 45% turnout

By AFP

TIPASA, Algeria (AFP) - Algeria's dominant National Liberation Front (FLN) party said Friday it would be satisfied with a turnout of 45 percent in the May 10 legislative election.

Speaking after a campaign rally in the coastal city of Tipasa, FLN secretary general Abdelaziz Belkhadem countered widespread expectations of a turnout similar to or worse than the record low of 35 percent recorded in 2007.

"If we could reach a voter turnout of 45 percent," he told AFP when asked what the FLN -- the party of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika -- would consider a satisfactory figure.

Turnout has been described as one of the main stakes in the upcoming polls, which the FLN bills as a turning point for Algeria following a raft of political reforms set in motion to prevent Arab Spring contagion.

Algeria is a major oil and gas producer and the state sits on massive foreign currency reserves but the country's youth, which accounts for the bulk of the 37 million inhabitants, complains that that wealth is not trickling down.

The soaring cost of living is exerting huge pressure on the 12 percent of unemployed Algerians but also on those who do have jobs, often poorly paid short-term contracts.

Moreover, deep-rooted distrust of a political class perceived as corrupt and self-serving has yielded a relatively low-key campaign where many of the 44 parties in the race have struggled to draw crowds.

The former single party holds 136 out of 389 seats in the outgoing national assembly and the biggest share of cabinet posts in a governing coalition with two other parties.

Belkhadem, one of the state's most influential figures, appeared confident that the FLN would remain in business.

"We are confident when it comes to the results because our party has an action programme, achievements to show for and credible candidates to submit to voters," he said.

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