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Big turnout in controversial Algerian referendum


Big turnout in controversial Algerian referendum

Algerian officials say almost 80 percent of eligible voters took part in a referendum on a partial amnesty for militants who have been fighting for a purist Islamic state.

Results are expected later today, but already government sources are talking about a comfortable victory for the “yes” campaign. The aim of the amnesty is to end a decade of civil war, which has left more than 150,000 people dead. Pardons would be given to rebels in prison, on the run, or still fighting, although crimes including massacres are excluded. With leading Islamists banned from politics, critics of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika accuse him of attempting to tighten his hold on power. Human rights groups complain that many abuses, including the fate of thousands of missing people, will be swept under the carpet. Some people protested by burying their voting cards in the graves of victims. The conflict began after the army cancelled the second round of multi-party elections, which the Islamic Salvation Front, or FIS, was on course to win in 1992. As well as atrocities carried out by rebels, many allegations were levelled against security forces.