Algeria Islamist leader predicts unrest if May parliamentary vote is rigged

February 1, 2012

(Sheikh Abdallah Djaballah, 54, head of a party called the Front for Justice and Development, gestures during an interview with Reuters in his office in Algiers August 13, 2011. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi )

Algeria’s government will ignite an explosion of unrest if it tries to rig a parliamentary election in May to keep its grip on power, according to the leader of an Islamist opposition party vying for a big share of the vote. Algeria, a big energy exporter, is the only North African state largely untouched by the “Arab Spring” upheavals in the region but the election could still act as a catalyst for protests over unemployment, a lack of housing and a government many people feel does not listen to them.

Throwing down a gauntlet to the secularist leaders who have run the country since independence from France in 1962, moderate Islamists are building support, buoyed by an Islamist resurgence in neighbours Tunisia, Libya and Morocco in the wake of last year’s popular revolts.

The Front for Justice and Development, a moderate Islamist party widely viewed by Algerians as one of the few credible challengers to the government, was last week given the green light by the authorities to take part in the election.

“We hope that we can go towards a democratic system peacefully … but if fraud is committed during the upcoming elections, it will be the biggest factor that will push the people towards an explosion,” party leader Sheikh Abdallah Djaballah, 54, told Reuters in an interview.

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