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Algeria’s presidential polls open

The polls started a day after Algerian police broke up a rare anti-government protest.

Source : Al Arabiya / 17 Apr 2014

Polls opened Thursday for Algerians to cast their vote in presidential elections in which President Abdelaziz Bouteflika hopes to win a fourth term in office, despite him still recovering from a stroke.

More than 260,000 police have been deployed to protect the 50,000 polling booths set up across Africa’s largest country, where 23 million Algerians are eligible to vote in a contest between six candidates after polling opened at 8:00 am (0700 GMT), Agence France-Presse reported.

The 77-year-old president, who rose to power in 1999, is the firm favorite. But with warnings of electoral fraud and opposition calls for a boycott, the focus will be on turnout before polling stations close at 1800 GMT.

The polls started a day after Algerian police broke up a rare anti-government protest.

Small groups of demonstrators from the group Barakat - “Enough” in English - tried to hold a sit-in in downtown Algiers before uniformed police surrounded them and dragged them off, Reuters reported.

The ruling Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) and the army have been the main influence on the North African state’s politics since independence from France in 1962.

“We are carrying out this sit-in to denounce this electoral masquerade,” said one protester called Massi. “We are just peacefully demonstrating, we are not calling for a revolution or trying to make trouble.”

Police dispersed several small groups of protesters, some waving Algeria’s green and white flag. Some groups were faced with chanting Bouteflika supporters.

If Bouteflika wins, his health during his fourth term have raised questions about stability in Algeria, a partner in the U.S. campaign on Islamist militancy in the Maghreb and a major supplier of gas to Europe.

(With Reuters)

 

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