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Algerians vote on Bouteflika's re-election bid

media captionMr Bouteflika, who is recovering from a stroke, casts his vote from a wheelchair and is favourite to win, the BBC's Carine Torbey reports

Algerians have voted in elections in which incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seeking a fourth term.

The 77-year-old leader, who suffered a stroke last year and rarely appears in public, cast his vote in a wheelchair.

Despite not personally campaigning, Mr Bouteflika is expected to beat his five other opponents.

Turnout on Thursday was 51.7% of the country's 23 million registered voters, the interior ministry said in a statement.

A coalition of Islamist and secular opposition parties had called for a boycott, describing the presidential election as a sham.

They said Mr Bouteflika was unfit to run because of his health problems.

Three other presidential candidates pulled out of the race soon after Mr Bouteflika's candidacy was announced, saying the result was now a foregone conclusion.

image copyrightAFP
image captionBarakat has been holding demonstrations around the country

His re-election bid has spawned a protest movement called Barakat, meaning "Enough", which have been holding demonstrations around the country.

'Voting for peace'

Mr Bouteflika was wheeled into a polling station in the El Biar district of the capital, Algiers, to cast his vote.

He did not give any statement, but waved to journalists and supporters.

"We are voting for peace, it's all we want," said a widow, whose husband died in the civil war, at a polling station in the Sidi Moussa district south of Algiers, the AFP news agency reports.

image copyrightAFP
image captionPresidential candidate Ali Benflis ran Mr Bouteflika's campaign in 1999, but stood against him in 2004

Correspondents said many voters, especially younger ones, had not been expected to turn out.

"I can't say how many of my friends will vote; most were not very enthusiastic,'' retiree Rachid Bahriz told Reuters news agency after voting in Algiers.

Another woman voting in Algiers told the AP news agency that Algerians "need new blood".

"But I think we should prioritise stability and peace," she said.

Police violently broke up a protest organised by the Barakat group in Algiers on Wednesday and arrested some of its members, AFP reports.

More than 260,000 police were deployed to protect 50,000 polling booths, the agency reports.

Mr Bouteflika's main challenger, Ali Benflis, said he would not tolerate any attempt to rig the election in favour of the president.

"In case there is fraud I will not shut up. This does not mean we will push for chaos, because we have opted for stability," he said.

Mr Bouteflika took office in 1999 when Algeria was still caught up in a civil war between the military and Islamist militants and has been credited by supporters for curbing the conflict and restoring some economic stability.

He scrapped constitutional rules in 2008 limiting him to two terms in office.

Mr Bouteflika won elections the following year with 90% of the vote.

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