Algeria holds election despite boycott

Algeria holds election despite boycott”

A lawyer and former justice minister, he was Bouteflika's top aide andthen prime minister from 2000-2003 before falling out when he ran against him in 2004.

After nearly 10 months of political turmoil, Algeria on Thursday held a presidential vote bitterly opposed by a protest movement that sees it as a regime ploy to cling on to power.

The military-backed government sees the election as the only way to end 10 months of unrest, that brought down veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April. A 60-year-old former Minister of Culture, the writer and poet Azzedine Mihoubi, was touted in the media. To show the military was in step with the democratic times, soldiers were told to vote like other civilians, at polling stations and in civilian clothes.

Demonstrators at the huge protests that have roiled Algiers and other major cities for nearly 10 months have sworn they will boycott Thursday's vote, which they see as a charade created to keep the existing ruling elite in place.

Algerian demonstrators take to the streets in the capital Algiers to reject the presidential elections, in Algeria, December 12, 2019.

A low turnout is expected. That earned a sharp rebuke from one man in his 80s: "I fought for the right to vote, so I'm voting for my country".

Over 25.5 million eligible voters will cast ballots until 7:00 p.m. (0600GMT), while nearly one million expatriate voters started to vote last Saturday along with thousands of nomads who live in remote areas of the desert.

The demonstrators who forced ageing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign his two-decade tenure in April have pushed on with weekly rallies to demand far more sweeping reforms to the political system ahead of any vote.

"We have come out to vote and make our choice known so we can figure out where we're headed", said voter Abdel Nasr at an Algiers polling station.

"I am voting because I am afraid that the country will get mired in the crisis", said Karim, a 28-year-old civil servant.

Whoever wins will struggle to be accepted by the electorate in the north African country, where many citizens rail against a regime they see as inept, corrupt and unable to manage the flagging economy.

The "Hirak" street movement kicked off when Bouteflika, 82, announced in February he would seek a fifth term in office. Protesters have stayed on the streets ever since, demanding the total dismantling of the system that has ruled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

A previous poll set for July was scrapped for lack of viable candidates and interim president Abdelkader Bensalah's term technically ended five months ago.

While reports suggested that at least two of the candidates are supported by the military, observers say that all hopefuls will work closely with the army and its powerful Chief of Staff, Gaid Salah. The Journal covers primarily the Maghreb region and expands its general coverage to the Sahel, Egypt, and beyond, when events in those regions affect the broader North Africa geography.

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