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Benflis vows to monitor Algeria vote, protest any fraud

Benflis is seen as the president’s main rival, and has repeatedly warned of fraud

Published: Updated:

Presidential hopeful Ali Benflis said Tuesday that thousands of his supporters would monitor Algeria’s election, vowing to protest if it is rigged in favour of ailing incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is seeking re-election.

Benflis is seen as the president’s main rival, and has repeatedly warned of fraud during the election campaign, describing it as his “main adversary” in Thursday’s vote.

Speaking to reporters in Algiers, he said he had an “army” of people in place to monitor the poll “consisting of 60,000 people, most of them young men and women armed to the teeth with conviction.”

“If the election is rigged, I will not keep quiet,” Benflis said.

“What will I do with these millions of people who have voted for me, if they realise that their votes have been rigged or tampered with?”

“Not to keep quiet means to protest, not to accept the will of the people being stolen,” he added.

Earlier, Abderezak Mokri, who heads the Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP) -- the Algerian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood -- insisted that Bouteflika could only win Thursday’s election by rigging it.

“The signs of fraud are discernible,” Mokri said, without elaborating. “The regime’s candidate cannot win the election” without rigging it.

MSP and two other Islamist parties have forged an unlikely alliance with the fiercely secularist Rally for Culture and Democracy to call on voters to shun an election they say is a “sham.”

Amnesty International has accused Algerian authorities of silencing critics and stepping up curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to the election.

The 77-year-old Bouteflika, despite his poor health preventing him from even appearing in person on the campaign trail, remains firm favourite to win a fourth term.

But Benflis said he was confident of “victory” on Thursday.

The former prime minister ran against and was heavily defeated by his former ally in 2004, alleging that Bouteflika’s landslide victory then was rigged.

“Fraud has become an enemy for me and that’s why I am condemning and fighting against it. Fraud is immoral and degrading, and dishonours all those who resort to it.”

Benflis and Bouteflika have waged a war of words in recent days, the president accusing his rival of inciting violence, sedition and even “terrorism via the television,” in reference to his warnings of electoral fraud.

Benflis branded the charges “irresponsible.”

“These accusations reflect the state of panic and the disarray that has gripped those who made them,” he said.