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12.04.2009 Algeria

Landslide win for Algeria leader

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Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been re-elected to his third consecutive term in office, official results show.

Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni said President Bouteflika secured 90.24% of the vote in Thursday's election.

Earlier, he said 74% of voters took part in the presidential poll, amid a boycott by some opposition parties and charges of election fraud.

Critics say Mr Bouteflika's win was a foregone conclusion.

He faced relatively unknown challengers and had a well-funded campaign.

His nearest rival was Louisa Hanoune of the Trotskyist Workers' Party with 4.22% of the vote. Moussa Touati of the Algerian National Front came third with 2.31%.

Mr Zerhouni told a news conference that there had indeed been an "exceptional" turnout but denied suggestion that the official figures had been manipulated and said people had still been queuing to vote when polling stations closed.

He also said that anyone with evidence of fraud should take it to the election authorities.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Algiers says that, as the choice of the ruling elite, Mr Bouteflika's victory was never in doubt.

Our correspondent says the turnout figures are surprising, as they show a higher rate than in the previous election in 2004.

He notes that they have not been independently verified.

Former colonial power France was quick to offer its congratulations.

Mr Bouteflika, 72, has promised to spend $150bn (£102bn) on development projects and create three million jobs, and stresses the fact that he has restored stability to Algeria.

His critics say he is using the threat of renewed violence from Islamic militants to mask the country's deeper problems of poverty, high unemployment and corruption.

However, suspected Islamists have staged some 20 attacks this year.

'Tsunami of fraud'
Thursday's vote was relatively peaceful although two soldiers were wounded when a polling station was bombed in eastern Algeria.

But some opposition parties described the election as a charade.

"[There was] a real tsunami of massive fraud which reached an industrial scale," the Front of Socialist Forces, which boycotted the election, said in a statement.

Former head of Algeria's human rights league Ali Yehya Abdel-Nour told the BBC the official voter turnout figures had been exaggerated.

The election's outcome, he said, had been decided last November, when the government chose to amend the constitution to allow Mr Bouteflika to run for a third five-year term in office.

French foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier refused to be drawn on these allegations.

"There were observers from the African Union, from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League in Algeria. We'll have a look at their reports," he said, according to the AFP news agency.

"In any case, the vote took place peacefully, according to all the news we have so far."

Algeria is slowly recovering from the 1990s civil war which left up to 150,000 people dead.

The conflict was triggered when the military intervened in a parliamentary poll in 1991 to stop an Islamist victory.

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