Campaign Algiers

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ALGIERS: As voters go to the polls for the first national elections in five years, it says a lot about what life has become in Algeria that nearly two dozen people could be killed by bombs in Algiers in the previous week -- and observers remarked at the relative quiet. More than 60,000 have been killed in the struggle between the government and the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) since the Islamic party, which looked sure to gain control of the government in the 1992 elections, was outlawed after an army coup. Hoping to establish legitimacy after coming to power in the 1992 military takeover, President Liamine Zeroual is looking for a large turnout among the 17 million eligible voters. Although the FIS is still party non grata, Zeroual has agreed to allow opposition from moderate fundamentalist parties as long as they removed Islamic references from their names and platforms and renounced violence. TIME's Scot MacLeod reports that while international monitors agree that outright ballot fraud was relatively absent, to most Algerians, the outcome was rigged from the start since Zeroual party relied on government patronage and control of television to boost its chances.