ALGIERS — Algeria's presidential election was thrown into chaos Wednesday after six of the seven candidates announced they were withdrawing to protest fraud in early voting.
The sole candidate left--Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is widely believed to have the support of the military--said he would only accept the presidency if there was a high voter turnout and a large majority for him.
The election today is meant to give Algeria its first civilian president since 1965 and reconcile a nation reeling from an Islamic insurgency that has killed about 75,000 people in seven years. The unrest was sparked when the military aborted the 1992 legislative elections, which Muslim fundamentalists were about to win.
Until now, candidates, authorities and even a banned Muslim fundamentalist party had seen the election as the turning point for a brutalized nation, encouraged by promises by outgoing President Liamine Zeroual that the vote would be clean. Zeroual said the vote will go ahead as planned.