Algeria’s National Liberation Front and a sister party have won legislative elections, defeating an Islamist alliance.
Dahou Ould Kablia, interior minister, said on Friday the National Liberation Front took 220 seats and its sister party in government, the National Democratic Rally, took 68 seats.
The two parties now form a majority in the 462-seat parliament.
The Islamist Green Alliance came in a distant third in Thursday’s elections with just 48 seats.
The alliance has denounced what it is calling fraud and has threatened to take “the appropriate measures,” without elaborating.
The new parliament will be entrusted with helping a new constitution as well as set the stage for the all-important 2014 presidential elections.
Zineddine Tebbal, head of foreign relations for the Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP) party, part of the Green Alliance, told Al Jazeera the results did not show “the reality of Algeria’s political arena”.
He said the outcome had been “manipulated” and would be rejected.
“Any measures we take will be peaceful and will be within the law … and we can co-ordinate with other parties to have a common position,” Tebbal said.
Turnout for the vote widely viewed as a test of the ruling elite’s legitimacy was 42.9 per cent, said the government.
The figure, announced on Thursday evening by Kablia, marked an improvement on turnout at the last elections in 2007 and was claimed by some an endorsement for recent political reforms introduced in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Speaking on the North African country’s only channel in front of a framed picture of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Kablia declared that the turnout was “remarkable” and that the results confirmed Algeria’s democratic credentials.
While many opposition activists said the official figure had probably been inflated, calls for boycotts appeared not to have achieved the massive abstention some were predicting.
Still, the fact that more than half of eligible voters did not go to the polls was no surprise in a climate of mistrust and cynicism against the parliamentary system, which many Algerians view as nothing more than a veneer for the military government.
The ruling FLN has dominated the country’s political life since the country won independence from France 50 years ago.
These elections were expected to make more room in parliament for a coalition of Islamist parties, competing under the umbrella of the Green Alliance, as well as for the secular opposition Socialist Forces Front (FFS).
‘Manipulation of results’
“It seems there’s been a manipulation of the results,” Kamel Mida, press officer for the MSP, told Al Jazeera by phone.
Statistics collected by the Green Alliance’s own observers gave the coalition 101 out of 462 seats, he said.
The authorities had set up special voting booths for security forces, where 100 per cent of votes appear to have been given to the FLN.
“We will wait and see what results they announce, and then we will meet with the other opposition parties to decide how we will react,” Mida said.
Unlike the Islamist parties that have come to power in Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, the Green Alliance has worked closely with the government.
The FFS said in a statement on Friday that it recognised “the motivations for the abstention in peaceful protest, brought about by years of fraud, of predation and authoritarian contempt for freedoms and citizens’ rights”.
“A sharp divide has been drawn between activists engaged in peaceful protest in favour of democratic change, and those who prefer dirty money and depolitisation,” Ali Laskri, the lefist opposition party’s general secretary, said in a statement.
By allowing more room for some opposition parties, critics of the regime say that the military is simply managing the process so as to maintain its grip on power.
Bouteflika began the reforms with a speech in April 2011.
After the legislative election, the next step in this reform process would most likely be to name a prime minister to replace Ahmad Ouyahia.
In the lead-up to Thursday’s vote, the government had earlier said a turnout of 45 per cent would be a “success” and Bouteflika made a plea to young Algerians to at least cast blank votes rather than abstaining.
The official turnout appeared sufficiently high to suggest the generals’ strategy of gradual reforms had been a success, Le Matin, an independent daily newspaper, wrote in an editorial published on Friday.
“For now, the ‘Arab Spring’ chapter is closed, and Algeria is settling into a new era of uncertainty,” the paper wrote.
“The voter turnout for the legislatives, even if it only reached 42 per cent, is more than enough to ensure the credibility of the democratic process by which the national assembly has been elected and to reinforce their legitimacy,” the paper continued.
The generals’ decision to respond to the Arab Spring by “substantially widening the political cliental” that benefits from their monopoly on power, by ensuring that members of the security forces, government bureaucrats and some opposition parties were given a greater share of the pie, Le Matin wrote, had avoided more radical change.
The official turnout figures revealed that consent was much lower in some parts of the population.
In Algiers, the capital, only 30.95 per cent cast ballots, according the official statistics.
In Tizi-Ouzou, the capital of the Kabylie region which has been the historic centre of popular uprisings, only 19.84 per cent of the eligible population voted. Only 14 per cent voted among Algerians living abroad.