Elections in the Shadow of Violence and Repression

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Algerians went to the polls on June 5, 1997 in the first parliamentary elections since the military-backed government canceled elections in January 1992. That measure, taken to prevent a victory by the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut, or FIS), plunged the country into endemic violence that continues today and has claimed more than 60,000 lives, most of them civilians. The government hoped that these elections would crown its efforts to assert its legitimacy at home and abroad, and remove the taint it incurred when the democratic process was interrupted in 1992. However, these elections cannot be seen as the capstone of the process of establishing democratic rule in Algeria, because of human rights issues that limit the significance of these elections as a free expression of the will of the Algerian people to choose those who would govern them.