High voter turnout in Algerian presidential election (Roundup)
Apr 9, 2009, 20:10 GMT
Algiers - Algerians voted in record number Thursday in a presidential election that incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika was virtually certain to win.
Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni said that just before polls closed late Thursday, 63.45 per cent of the country's 20.6 million eligible voters had cast their ballots. In the 2004 elections, voter turnout had been a little more than 58 per cent.
The high turnout represents a victory for the 72-year-old Bouteflika, who is virtually certain to be elected to an unprecedented third five-year term.
Because the country's two main opposition parties were boycotting the election, charging that the results had been rigged in advance, Bouteflika was running against five candidates with only marginal support.
He had therefore demanded during his campaign that voters go to the polls even if it meant voting against him, and had demanded a turnout of at least 70 per cent.
The election was marred by several violent incidents, most of them in the eastern region of Kabylie.
Local media reported that a bomb explosion injured two police officers at a polling station while at least seven other electoral offices were vandalized by youths and ballot boxes set on fire.
In addition, eyewitnesses said that in the city of Bouira, in Upper Kabylie, streets were blocked to prevent ballots being delivered to polling stations.
In and around the capital Algiers, more than 20,000 police officers were deployed because officials feared that Islamic terrorists would attempt to disrupt the vote. But no such incidents were reported.
In addition, some 200 international observers, including 85 sent by the Arab League, were on hand to scrutinize the election.
Results of the vote were expected to be announced Friday.