- "These elections -- and the high number of women elected -- are a welcome step," Clinton says
- The ruling National Liberation Front takes 220 of the 462 seats in parliament
- A moderate Islamist party casts doubt on whether the elections were credible
- An Arab League observer mission says the vote was transparent, state media reports
Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) has won nearly half the 462 seats up for grabs in parliamentary elections, state media reported.
According to preliminary results announced Friday by the interior ministry, the party took 220 seats in Thursday's vote, the state-run Algerian Press Service reported.
The National Democratic Rally placed second with 68 seats in the National People's Assembly, while the Alliance of Green Algeria came third with 48 seats, the news agency said.
The Socialist Forces Front won 21 seats, followed closely by the Workers' Party with 20. Independent candidates took 19 seats, while the Algerian National Front and the Justice and Development Party won nine and seven seats respectively.
The head of an Arab League observers' mission, Hanafi Wadjih, was quoted by the state news agency as saying there had been a "free and transparent election where the Algerian people have expressed their choice without coercion."
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton noted how international and nongovernmental organizations observed the elections and how the United States looks forward to working with the newly elected National Popular Assembly.
"These elections -- and the high number of women elected -- are a welcome step in Algeria's progress toward democratic reform," Clinton said in a statement.
But the Movement of Society for Peace, a moderate Islamist party and member of the opposition Green Algeria Islamist bloc, alleged fraud.
It said on its website that it considered the results "a declaration of a new era of the old system and its policy of unilateralism that the movement had fought since independence."
Abu Jarrah Sultani, the head of the movement, was quoted as saying a delay in the announcement of the results was "very suspicious" and suggested the outcome had been manipulated.
Sultani said: "There are some who want to delay the arrival of the Arab Spring to Algeria but instead, they are fortifying a decayed reality that the Algerian people are tired of and this will lead them to refrain from trusting (the regime) and participating in any future political process."
About 500 international observers -- from the European Union, African Union, Arab League and other organizations -- monitored the voting in Algeria, a North African nation of 37 million plagued by high unemployment.
Once the results are confirmed, the FLN, the biggest party in the outgoing coalition government, is expected to form a new coalition.
Algeria was the site of some Arab Spring protests, but they were not as large as in other countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
After those protests, in February 2011, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's government declared an end to a nearly two-decade state of emergency, lifting restrictions on speech and assembly imposed to combat an Islamist insurgency.
The emergency declaration was part of a clampdown on Islamist movements during a civil war that left more than 150,000 dead. But critics said the insurgency had long since diminished, and the law remained solely to muzzle critics of the government.
Some 44 political parties and 186 independent candidates were competing for the seats in the National People's Assembly. Roughly 43% of voters turned out at the ballot box, the interior ministry said.