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Islamic Victory in Algeria Is a Harbinger

Throughout the Muslim world, secular regimes tremble as many people seem poised to reject Western ways

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IN Algeria's first free parliamentary elections since independence in 1962, the Islamic Salvation Front has emerged as the major power in that country. The victory of Islam in Algeria may represent a trend that will dominate Middle Eastern politics in the new world order.

The Islamic Salvation Front won 188 seats, followed by the Socialist Front (dominated by the Berbers) with 25 seats. The National Liberation Front, which has governed Algeria for almost 30 years, was last with 15 seats. These parties will have run-offs Jan. 16 for the remaining 199 seats out of the 430 total. The Islamic Front needs 28 seats to have the majority, and its leaders are sure that they are going to get more than that.

On Dec. 23, Abdulkader Hashani, the acting leader of the front until the release of its main leader, Dr. Abbasi Madani, from prison, told reporters that his party would win more than 70 percent of the parliamentary seats. On the basis of the results of the first round, his assessment seems reasonable. Especially as some of the run-offs are in areas where there is a strong Islamic presence.

Realizing the danger of an Islamic victory, however, and acting under French pressure, the government of Algeria is calling on the people to work together to stop an Islamic monopoly on power. It cites the brutality of an Islamic form of government as a danger for Algerian civil liberties.

But the government's call rings hollow to Algerians and is not likely to win the people over to the government's side. First, for three decades the governing party has enjoyed the monopoly of power that it now fears from the fundamentalists. Secondly, the government's known record of brutality and its torture of its political opposition is no improvement over what the fundamentalists might do. For example, in the social unrest last June, the government arrested more than 5,000 supporters of the Islamic F ront, including Dr. Maddani and his deputy, Ali Belhadje, who are currently in prison. The government forces killed more than 50 people.


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