EU in Algeria to monitor elections

2012-04-17 12:49

Algiers -  The European Union on Monday launched its observer mission in Algeria ahead of 10 May legislative elections, the first time the 27-nation bloc is monitoring polls in the north African country.

"It is out of the question that we will interfere" in the election or the campaign, mission chief Jose Ignacio Salafranca, a member of the European parliament, told a press conference.

"We're not here to control, we're here to observe."

Salafranca is assisted by a group of nine experts who arrived in Algeria on 30 March.

He said the mission, which has asked to meet with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was financed by the European Union and not Algeria.

Overall, 160 people including diplomats and eight members of the European parliament were expected to make up the EU mission, which would look into the legal system, the electoral law, registers, the election campaign and the role of the media.

The mission, which aims to help "contribute to the consolidation of democracy" in the country, will publish initial observations after the vote, and a full report within three months.

In all nearly 500 foreign observers will monitor the May 10 vote - 200 from the African Union, 100 from the Arab League, 10 from the United Nations and 20 from the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation.

Campaigning for the election, seen as a test of reforms designed to avert the kind of discontent that led to a string of revolutions elsewhere in the region, began Sunday.

Deadly riots in the north African country in January 2011 coincided with an uprising in neighbouring Tunisia that sparked the so-called Arab Spring, which also ousted the rulers of Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Bouteflika responded by promising reforms, allowing new political parties and new seats in parliament.

The government also raised salaries and accelerated work on building more than a million homes, promised in 1999 when Bouteflika first assumed the presidency in the country, which is rich in oil and gas.