Algeria declares former PM Tebboune winner of presidential election

Protesters say the contest between five officially sanctioned candidates to replace ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika was an illegitimate sham. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 December 2019

Algeria declares former PM Tebboune winner of presidential election

  • Abdelmadjid Tebboune had won Thursday's presidential election with 58 percent of the vote
  • Authorities said 40 percent of voters took part in Thursday’s election

ALGIERS: Algeria's electoral body said on Friday that former prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune had won Thursday's presidential election with 58 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.
The final voter turnout was 40 percent, the electoral body's head said in a televised news conference in Algiers.

Thousands of demonstrators were expected to take to the streets of Algeria on Friday to denounce a presidential election they reject as a charade to keep the ruling elite in power.
The authorities, including the powerful army, argue that the only way to move the country forward after demonstrators brought down Bouteflika in a popular uprising in April is to elect a successor.
But weekly protests that toppled Bouteflika have not stopped, with demonstrators demanding the entire ruling elite cede power to a new generation, despite no obvious leader emerging to represent them. The protesters refer to themselves simply as “Hirak,” or “the movement.”
All five candidates were former senior officials, including two ex-prime ministers, two former ministers and a former member of the ruling party’s central committee.
Protesters marched in cities and towns across Algeria throughout Thursday’s election, in some places clashing with police, who tried to disperse them with baton charges.
Late on Thursday, the election body said some 9 million Algerians took part in the election.
“The turnout is satisfying and it will give the new president enough backing to implement his reforms,” said Ahmed Mizab, a commentator on state television, saying it showed the decision to hold the elections was “propitious and right.”
But Riad Mekersi, 24, who has participated in all the Hirak protests since Feb. 22 in Algiers, said the movement will continue no matter who wins.
“We have toppled Bouteflika, and we will topple all the system’s men. We won’t give up,” he said.
Even without questions over his legitimacy, the next president faces difficult times.
Nearly all Algerian state revenues come from oil and gas exports, which have declined in both price and volume in recent years. The government has already approved a 2020 budget with a 9 percent cut in public spending, though politically sensitive subsidies remain untouched.


Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

Updated 43 min 59 sec ago

Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

  • 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures
  • A source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored

BEIRUT: Initial investigations indicate years of inaction and negligence over the storage of highly explosive material in Beirut port caused the blast that killed over 100 people on Tuesday, an official source familiar with the findings said.
The prime minister and presidency said on Tuesday that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.
"It is negligence," the official source told Reuters, adding that the storage safety issue had been before several committees and judges and "nothing was done" to issue an order to remove or dispose of the highly combustible material.
The source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.
Tuesday's explosion was the most powerful ever suffered by Beirut, a city is still scarred by civil war three decades ago and reeling from a deep financial crisis rooted in decades of corruption and economic mismanagement.
Badri Daher, Director General of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI on Wednesday that customs had sent six documents to the judiciary warning that the material posed a danger.
"We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why," Daher said.
Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the ammonium nitrate six months ago warned that if it was not moved it would "blow up all of Beirut".
According to two documents seen by Reuters, Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to ask the "concerned maritime agency" to re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, removed from the a cargo vessel, Rhosus, and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety.
One of the documents cited similar requests in 2014 and 2015.
"A local and international investigation needs to be conducted into the incident, given the scale and the circumstances under which these goods were brought into the ports," said Ghassan Hasbani, former deputy prime minister and a member of the Lebanese Forces party.
Shiparrested.com, an industry network dealing with legal cases, had said in a 2015 report that the Rhosus, sailing under a Moldovan flag, docked in Beirut in September 2013 when it had technical problems while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique with 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
It said that, upon inspection, the vessel was forbidden from sailing and shortly afterwards it was abandoned by its owners, leading to various creditors coming forward with legal claims.
"Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port's warehouses," it added.