Algeria swears in new Parliament
By Lyes Aflou for Magharebia in Algiers – 29/05/12
Algeria swore in newly elected MPs on Saturday (May 26th) amidst protests from Islamists alleging electoral fraud.
Mohamed Larbi Ould Khelifa presided over the first plenary session of the new People's National Assembly (APN), assisted by two younger MPs, Assia Kenane and Hocine Maaloume. Islamist protesters disrupted the proceedings when 49 Green Algeria Alliance members held up placards and called the May 10th election a fraud, followed by a similar act by the 28 MPs representing the Front for the Protection of Democracy.
The Green Alliance, which is made up of the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), Ennahda and El Islah, claim the election results marked a "return to the one-party era" dominated by the National Liberation Front (FLN), the president's party.
"We have decided to withdraw from the first session of the National Assembly and to mount an official protest against the election results," the group said in a statement.
Lakhdar Benkhlella from the Justice and Development Front (FJD) said that the boycott of the assembly was "a matter of principle". "What happened on May 10th was a blatant violation of the guarantees of election transparency that were given by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika," he said.
Of the 167 official appeals filed from protesting parties the Constitutional Council upheld 13, resulting in only three additional seats being awarded to the Green Alliance.
Among the amendments to the electoral tally, the Constitutional Council on Thursday (May 24th) awarded the Workers' Party (PT) seven seats and the Socialist Forces Front (FFS) six seats. After the rulings, however, the FLN retained 208 out of the house's 462 seats.
During an afternoon session, the assembly elected Ould Khelifa as speaker of the house for a five year term by a show of hands. He was uncontested and received all 208 votes from the FLN along with the 68 votes from the National Democratic Rally (RND).
The FFS and the Workers' Party did not support the appointment and abstained, but could not stop the move. The Workers' Party said that it was "not concerned with the way in which the speaker is elected" and left the chamber in protest.
Upon his appointment, Ould Khelifa said: "The challenges facing Algeria require all of us within this noble assembly to work together to safeguard the democratic process through constructive dialogue, regardless of our political affiliations."
Meanwhile, at the Republican Patriotic Rally (RPR) headquarters, the "People's Parliament," comprised of disgruntled members of the sixteen parties making up the Front for the Protection of Democracy, held opening ceremonies of their "boycott parliament" parallel to the APN.
Abdelkader Merbah from the RPR told journalists that the parties sitting in the "People's Parliament" will now decide how this parallel 462 seat chamber will operate.
According to Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia, the initiative is "illegal" and "undermines democracy, the will of the people and the state". He urged those threatening to boycott the new assembly to "resign".
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