Sunday 18 March 2018

Algerians vote in low-key polls

Algerians vote in low-key polls
(AFP 11/24/17)

Algerians voted Thursday in local elections after a low-key campaign that has brought no expectation of change in the North African state.

In a rare public outing, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is expected to seek a fifth term in office in 2019, appeared in a wheelchair to cast his ballot paper at a polling station in Algiers.

Bouteflika, 80, who won a fourth term in 2014, has used a wheelchair for public appearances since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Dozens of political parties and four alliances were competing for seats in more than 1,500 city councils and 48 state legislatures.

Only the president's ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) and its coalition ally, the National Democratic Rally (RND), have a nation-wide presence. They are expected to romp to victory.

Smaller parties have complained of bureaucratic obstacles to registering their candidates. Although a total of around 180,000 contenders were standing, voters have shown little enthusiasm for the poll.

"At each election we are promised a change... We are still waiting," said Said Mohamedi, 65.

Another member of Algeria's 22-million electorate, Mohamed, an unemployed 30-year-old, said he would not vote because "it will do absolutely nothing, things won't change".

The campaign mainly focused on issues such as "the difficult economic situation... the 2018 budget law and the 2019 presidential election", said analyst Belkacem Benzenine of Oran's Centre for Research in Social and Cultural Anthropology.

"Issues relating to local development... have been addressed only superficially," he said.

Three hours before polling stations closed at 1900 GMT turnout for municipal councils stood at 34.46 percent and 33.26 percent for regional councils, Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui said.

"I'm a housewife and no one cares about housewives so why vote?," said 57-year-old Fatima.

In 2012, turnout was 42.27 percent for the municipal council and 42.84 percent for regional councils.

Official results are due on Friday afternoon.

A parliamentary election in May was marred by a 35-percent turnout and voter apathy over what many see as broken government promises and a political system tainted by corruption.

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