Algerian Interior Minister, Noureddine Zerhouni, condemned Khalef’s comments. In an article published by local media on 8 December, he said that any such reforms would ‘negatively affect the electoral process, as a large number [of people] would not vote’. The call for voting reform came days after US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Algeria and called for the presidential elections to be free and fair, with equal media access for all candidates (MEED 4:12:03).
The upcoming elections in March 2004 have been much anticipated by observers. In a blow to President Bouteflika, the former ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN) on 3 October chose its leader and former prime minister, Ali Benflis, as its presidential candidate (MEED 7:10:03).