Presidential election today
Algerians are voting in a presidential election today.
The incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of the National Liberation Front (FLN) is standing again under increasingly controversial circumstances. Aged 77 and having been hospitalised in France for four months last year he has not been seen on the campaign trail. Bouteflika came to power in 1999 and the later years of his presidency have been dogged with ill health and accusations of corruption within his immediate circle. Despite all of this he is likely to be re-elected today largely because many Algerians want peace with continuity and the president is still remembered for having helped to end the civil war of the 1990s.
President Bouteflika faces five other candidates in the presidential race. Ali Benflis is recognised as being the only one who has a chance of upsetting the president’s plans. He is standing as an Independent but is a former prime minister and justice minister. In an interview with Al Jazeera he claims to have the backing of 25 political parties and 213 associations nationwide. During his two week campaign he says he has visited more than 37 provinces. The war of words between Benflis and the president has increased during the campaign with Benflis expressing concern about fraud and Bouteflika accusing his rival of inciting violence and sedition.
The other four candidates are Louisa Hanoune a member of parliament and leader of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), Moussa Touati leader of the centre-right Algerian National Front (FNA), Ali Fawzi Rebaine of the Ahd 54 (“Generation of ’54”) a minor party and Abdelaziz Belaïd, leader of the El Moustakbal Front which he founded in February 2012.
Turnout is expected to be low with many planning to boycott the election. The Islamist Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), Islamic Renaissance Movement and the centre-left Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) are all calling on their supporters to boycott the election. A youth protest group calling itself Barakat which means ‘Enough’ in Arabic, established several months ago is urging its supporters to boycott the ‘non-event’.
There are 22,880,678 eligible voters voting across 49,971 polling booths and the polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. In 2009 the official turnout was 74.11%. The 1,009,000 registered Algerians abroad started voting last Saturday across 398 polling stations. Because Algeria has a significant nomad population a further 167 mobile polling stations started their work mainly in the southern provinces last Monday.