Algeria is holding an election that experts say President Abdelaziz Bouteflika needs to win convincingly to show he can reconnect with disillusioned voters.
The 72-year-old is expected to finish well in front but if turnout is low, it could boost his opponents who claim the poll is a charade. The left-wing opposition, many Islamist leaders and the chief of al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa claim fraud is likely and have called for a boycott. “I am not going to vote..why? Because I am not happy with what is going on in Algiers,” said one man. Algeria, a US ally, has soaring unemployment and an active offshoot of al-Qaeda. But not everyone is unhappy: “I will vote for Bouteflika, because I have known him since 1965, when I was 14, he was in politics then. He’s an ace,” said this supporter. “He brought peace to the country. I love President Bouteflika,” was one woman’s opinion. Every wall is covered in posters, but they paper over disillusionment, like this man’s: “It won’t change anything, nothing at all, the election is just to show that everything is alright in Algeria, so I won’t vote. I am boycotting it.” The normally tight security in Algeria, a legacy of its bloody 10-year insurgency, has been heightened ahead of the poll. Five other candidates are also in the running.