Dozens in Algeria face charges over polling day violations: ministry

Almost 70 people in Algeria have faced prosecution for breaking the country’s electoral laws during parliamentary elections earlier this month, a justice ministry statement said Monday.

The early polls were boycotted by the long-running Hirak protest movement and followed a string of arrests of opposition figures.

Voting day was mainly calm, except in the region of Kabylie, where ballot boxes were ransacked and security forces detained dozens of people, rights groups said.

The justice ministry said offences included distributing campaign material on voting day, disrupting the functioning of polling stations and offering “cash gifts to electors to influence their vote”.

It also mentioned theft of ballot papers.

A total of 69 people faced prosecution, the statement said, with 35 taken into custody and 10 others placed under judicial supervision.

An unspecified number have been sentenced to between six and 18 months behind bars and also received fines.

The legal proceedings were taken as part of “efforts to ensure the regularity of the legislative elections”, the statement said, adding that investigations were continuing across the country. 

A new electoral law adopted in March punishes offenders with up to 20 years in prison for some offences, such as destroying or removing ballot boxes.

It also punishes attempts to influence voters, including “through gifts or promises of gifts in cash or in kind” or employment favours, while threats are punishable by three months to a year in prison. 

Algeria’s long-dominant National Liberation Front (FLN) won the June 12 parliamentary elections, but with a significantly reduced number of seats and with the country’s lowest-ever turnout at 23 percent.