Algerian Throngs Call Upcoming Vote a Farce

Reuters

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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