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Local Elections Are First Step For Democracy, but Most Algerians Want More

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STANDING on the capital city's central pedestrian shopping street, Mohamed Alliche, an independent candidate in Tuesday's local elections, explains why he wants a dissolution of the national assembly and quick national elections. ``When you wash yourself, you start at the top with your head,'' he says. ``That's the way I see what this country needs.''

Most Algerians say their country needs much more reform than multiparty local elections - as novel as they will be in the 28 years of independence - if Algeria is to clean out the bureaucratic inertia and corruption that trouble it.

Several of Algeria's fledgling political parties are calling for moving up national elections now set for 1992. Among these is the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Algeria's principal Islamic fundamentalist party, which is expected to emerge from today's vote as one of the country's two strongest political forces.

A few parties that support national elections, including the Socialist Forces Front of the charismatic former revolutionary Hocine Ait Ahmed, are boycotting the June 12 poll, charging it was prematurely called to favor the ruling National Liberation Front.

Not everyone agrees that holding national elections now is the answer for a country in which political organizations, other than the ruling FLN have only been legal for little more than a year. ``We are learning democracy as we go,'' says Tahar Bensmina, another independent candidate. ``If national elections were held now, the FLN would certainly win because, as unhappy as people are, they would fear the others' inexperience.''

The FLN enjoys tremendous advantages, including a loyal nationwide bureaucracy, a huge headquarters, and poorly disguised control of the media. If, despite all that, the party loses the local elections, demands for national elections will certainly grow.


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