On the day of the Algerian presidential elections, popular protests against the candidates and the ruling elite continue.
Rabat – The Hirak (protest) movement in Algeria has called for a boycott of the presidential elections taking place today, December 12.
According to the movement, the poll cannot be fair unless the ruling elite and the military give up their power.
Thousands of Algerians decided to protest on the streets of several major Algerian cities, notably in Algiers, on the day of the elections.
The demonstrations resulted in clashes with Algerian riot police, with police arresting dozens of protesters.
The protesters rejected all five candidates running for presidency, calling them “children of the regime” and of the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned in April 2019 after widespread calls for him to step down.
Experts predict a very low turnout for these elections, following the protests on the days leading up to the vote and the polling day itself.
A video circulating on social media shows protesters breaking into a polling station and destroying the boxes containing ballots.
It is not yet known which city the polling station was in.
Despite the demonstrations, Mohamed Charfi, Algeria’s former justice minister and head of the electoral commission, said that 90% of polling stations are open and only 5% were affected by “disturbances.”
Charfi also described turnout as “respectable” so far.
The 61,000 polling stations across the country will close at 7 pm, local time. The electoral committee will announce the results tomorrow, December 13.
The elected president will, however, struggle to achieve acceptance from the Algerian people.
The protest movement in Algeria started in February 2019, in response to Bouteflika’s announcement that he planned to run for a fifth term in office. Since then, protesters organized demonstrations on a regular basis, calling for the abolishment of the system that had governed Algeria since its independence in 1962.
After Bouteflika’s resignation, the military tried to regain control of the population and pushed for a presidential election to resolve the political crisis.
Ahmed Gaid Salah, Algeria’s army chief and de facto ruler, said that opponents of the elections are “a criminal gang full of bitterness and visceral hate for this country.” He also ordered security forces to stop any disturbances of the elections.
On December 10, the Court of Sidi M’hamed in Algiers sentenced two former Algerian Prime Ministers, Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, to 15 and 12 years in prison, respectively on corruption charges.
However, the imprisonment of members from the former unpopular government and the promises of fairness in elections do not seem to have won over the Algerian protesters.