Algeria held elections Thursday for a new president in a race which incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika is expected to win, giving him another five year term.
Opponents have called in recent weeks for a boycott, predicting that fraudulent methods used in the past will stain this election, too. On his part, Bouteflika has said he wants to win by a landslide to continue his program of national reconciliation and reconstruction.
His campaign team, which includes most Cabinet ministers, have repeated this week they were certain Bouteflika would win. According to the AP, Bouteflika faces five low-profile candidates who have mostly spent the three-week campaign complaining they couldn't be heard.
The president, 72, had the constitution changed last year so he could run again and enjoys support from all government players, along with labor and business unions. Over 20 million Algerians are registered to vote. But most have seemed indifferent to the election.
The contenders, which include one woman from a small far-left party, two nationalists and two moderate Islamists, charge the race is unfair. "We've seen frauds, votes have been bought, envelopes passed around ," said Louisa Hanoune, who heads the Trotskyist Workers' Party. "We can't go on like this," she told reporters Wednesday.
Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni, who is in charge of organizing the elections and will announce the results, said voting transparency procedures "are largely sufficient." He told national radio that observers for each candidate could monitor the election in the country's 47,000 voting bureaus.
Zerhouni said international monitoring was "a supplement ... but not indispensable." National radio reported late Wednesday that turnout was reaching about 75 percent in some of the election bureaus for nomads in the southern Sahara Desert.
According to the election law, article 26, the voting operation starts at 8:00 am and closes at 9:00 pm (local time). For the 941,455 Algerian registered electors based abroad, the polling operation started on Saturday, April 4. The number of voting places stands at 11,115, of which 113 at consular and diplomatic stations and 11,002 in the 48 provinces.