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Islamists disrupt Algeria parliament opening

The delegates of the new Algerian National Assembly stand as they sing the national anthem (© 2009 AFP)

Dozens of opposition lawmakers walked out of the first session of Algeria’s new parliament Saturday, condemning alleged fraud in this month’s elections.

The 49 members of the three-party Green Algeria Alliance (AVV), a moderate Islamist coalition, led the boycott, waving protest placards before quitting the chamber immediately after the roll-call of newly-elected deputies.

They were followed out of the chamber by 28 lawmakers from the Political Front for the Safeguard of Democracy, a grouping formed after the results of the May 10 poll were announced, including parties which failed to win seats.

As the remainder of the 462-seat house dominated by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) went on to elect its new speaker, the 24 deputies of the extreme-left Workers’ Party left before the vote, saying it did not concern them.

The chamber chose its oldest member, FLN veteran Larbi Ould Khelifa, 74, to chair its proceedings by a show of hands with no other candidates standing.

Condemning “a return to the era of single party rule”, the AVV said in a statement: “We decided to withdraw from the first session of the National Assembly and protest officially against the results of the ballot.”

Lakhdar Benkhelaf of the Islamist Front for Justice and Development, one of the parties in the Political Front for the Safeguard of Democracy, said the boycott of parliament was “a question of principle.”

The AVV, which had confidently predicted victory in the election, alleged fraud after it won fewer than 50 seats.

On Thursday, the constitutional council accepted only 13 of the 167 appeals filed after the poll, yielding minor changes in the breakdown of seats.

The FLN saw its tally reduced to 208 from 221, while Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia’s National Rally for Democracy lost two seats but remains in second spot with 68 lawmakers, forming a comfortable majority with the FLN.

The AVV was deprived of one seat but allocated another three, making its total 49, while the Socialist Forces Front, Algeria’s oldest opposition party that returned to the electoral fray this year after a 10-year boycott, saw its tally rise to 27.

The main beneficiary of the constitutional council’s redistribution was the Workers Party, which reached the legal threshold to form a parliamentary group.

Opposition parties and other critics argue that the results announced by the interior ministry and confirmed by the constitutional council have little correlation with reality.

Signature : ALGIERS (AFP)

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