Algeria polls open, but few expected to participate

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest calling to reject the presidential election in Algiers, Algeria December 11, 2019. Image Credit: REUTERS

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

Five candidates are in the running, all of them widely rejected as “children of the regime” of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whom people power ousted in April after two decades in office.

Turnout was expected to be extremely low after demonstrators shouting “no vote” again pressed their demand for a boycott on the eve of the polls, facing off with truncheon-wielding riot police in Algiers.

“How can we trust those who betrayed the country and helped Bouteflika?” read one placard at the rally, which saw scores arrested and many wounded in clashes with security forces.

Polls open at 0700 GMT and close at 1800 GMT but the result may not be announced until the following day, as it was after previous elections already marked by high abstention rates.

Legitimacy dilemma

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

“None of the five candidates can hope to be considered legitimate” in the eyes of the protesters, said Anthony Skinner, Middle East and North Africa director at risk analysis company Verisk Maplecroft.

He predicted that “the vote will be boycotted on a large scale”.

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