Islam Ballots for Allah

An unexpected fundamentalist triumph in Algeria sends a shiver through the Arab world and beyond. Is the fear justified?

At 1 in the morning, five hours after the polls had closed, Algeria's Interior Minister stepped to the microphone at the government press center in the capital city of Algiers. Speaking in a monotone, Mohammed Salah Mohammedi delivered the startling news: the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front was ahead in Algeria's first multiparty election since the country's independence from France in 1962. Eventually the scope of the victory became plain: the Islamic party took a majority of the municipal and provincial councils, while the ruling National Liberation Front (F.L.N.) captured only one-third of them.

For Algeria, the returns affirmed President Chadli Bendjedid's...

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