Algeria's establishment FLN wins parliamentary poll: Electoral board
AFP, Tuesday 15 Jun 2021
The FLN, for decades Algeria's single party and the main component of the outgoing parliament, took 105 out of 407 seats

Algeria's long-dominant National Liberation Front (FLN) won weekend parliamentary elections, but with a significantly reduced number of seats and with the country's lowest ever turnout at 23 percent, the electoral board said Tuesday.

The vote was boycotted by the long-running Hirak protest movement and followed a string of arrests of opposition figures, with police deploying heavily in the capital Algiers to pre-empt any attempt to hold rallies.

Only 5.6 million of more than 24 million eligible voters lodged a ballot at Saturday's polls -- a record low turnout of just 23.03 percent -- with more than a million invalid votes cast, the ANIE electoral board said in provisional figures.

According to the initial figures, the FLN led with 105 out of 407 seats in Saturday's poll, electoral commission chief Mohamed Chorfi said.

The result is better than expected for the FLN, which emerged from the country's long struggle for independence from France 1962 and had been its sole party until the first multi-party elections in 1990.

But the party of autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika had been considered moribund after the ailing president resigned under pressure from the army following weeks of mass Hirak protests in early 2019.

If the results are confirmed, the FLN will have lost more than 50 seats and will control just a quarter of the new assembly.

Independents were second with 78 seats while the moderate Islamist party Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), which had previously claimed its candidates were ahead in most regions, was third with 64.

- 'Total freedom' -
Ahead of the official results, the MSP had said its candidates were in the lead in most regions, warning against "numerous efforts to alter the results".

But Chorfi said that "the foundations of this parliament have been built in total freedom and transparency for the people."

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, himself elected on an official turnout of less than 40 percent in late 2019, had put a brave face on low turnout.

"For me, the turnout isn't important. What's important is whether the lawmakers that the people elect have enough legitimacy," the president said Sunday.

The Hirak, which apart from a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic had held twice-weekly demonstrations for reform until they were effectively banned last month, had rejected the polls as a "sham".

The Democratic National Rally (RND), traditional ally of the FLN and also linked to Bouteflika's rule, took 57 seats.

The long-running Hirak protest movement which ousted Bouteflika from power had boycotted the vote, as with a constitutional referendum in November that gave additional powers to the presidency and the army.

But voting day was mainly calm, except in Kabylie, where ballot boxes were ransacked and security forces detained dozens of people, rights groups said.

Two prominent journalists detained on the eve of the election and released Saturday, Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi, condemned their "arbitrary" arrests.