Algerian Throngs Call Upcoming Vote a Farce


Tens of thousands of supporters of Algerian opposition leader Hocine Ait Ahmed marched, chanted and danced through central Algiers on Thursday to denounce next month's first free elections as a farce.

"No to the electoral masquerade," said banners held by the overwhelmingly young, male marchers, most of whom were non-Arab Berbers who support Ait Ahmed's Socialist Forces Front. Independent observers said they numbered more than 100,000.

Ait Ahmed, 63-year-old hero of Algeria's war of independence against France, returned from exile last December to plunge into the country's emerging multi-party democracy.

He has denounced the June 12 municipal and provincial elections as a farce and called for a boycott because the ruling National Liberation Front still controls the Parliament, the government and most of the media.

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