ALGERIA'S first multiparty national elections have been indefinitely postponed, and a state of siege imposed, after several days of clashes and violence in the capital. President Chadli Benjedid declared the emergency yesterday, accepted the government's resignation, and postponed general elections. "Because of the worsening situation which could lead the country into extreme crisis, and to avoid widespread repressive measures, I declare ... a state of siege throughout the country from midnight [Tuesday]," he said in a statement, broadcast on television.
Tanks and heavily armed soldiers patrolled the capital, Algiers, where Muslim fundamentalists demanding an Islamic state put up barricades overnight, after clashes in which several people were killed. According to eyewitnesses, some of the fundamentalists were armed with axes and stones.
The Army, deployed around the city since May 22 - three days before the radical Islamic Salvation Front called a general strike, took over key intersections and guarded ministries and installations, such as the telecommunications center.
The delay in elections is a setback for Mr. Chadli and Prime Minister Mouloud Hamrouche, who had both promised to lead the country toward full participatory democracy. The fundamentalists have protested that the election districts are drawn up in a manner that favors the pro-government party.