Algeria polls: Anti-vote youths, police clash

2014-04-17 21:03
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sitting on a wheelchair, votes in the presidential elections in Algiers. (Sidali Djarboub, AP)

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sitting on a wheelchair, votes in the presidential elections in Algiers. (Sidali Djarboub, AP)

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Algiers - Clashes erupted in Algeria's restive Kabylie region between security forces and youths opposed to Thursday's presidential election, leaving at least 40 people wounded, local sources said.

Separate groups of youths seeking to disrupt voting in the Bouria region, southeast of Algiers, ransacked polling stations in three localities shortly after they opened at 07:00, with the police firing to disperse them.

Forty-one people were injured in the unrest, including 28 policemen, with voting temporarily suspended in the affected voting centres, the sources said.

In the capital, where security forces have been heavily deployed, police arrested five protesters shouting anti-regime slogans, an AFP journalist reported.

At midday, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz insisted the election was taking place "in good conditions in the 50 000 voting centres" across the country, reporting a 9.5% turnout two hours into the vote.

Chronic health problems

Ailing incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who suffered a mini-stroke last year and voted from a wheelchair on Thursday, has urged a large turnout as he eyes a fourth term in office.

Despite his chronic health problems, he is widely expected to win the leadership contest against five other candidates.

But youth protest group Barakat (Enough) and a coalition of five opposition parties have called on voters to shun an election they say is a "sham".

And Bouteflika's main election rival, Ali Benflis, has repeatedly warned of fraud, describing it as his "main adversary" in the contest.

Police violently dispersed a demonstration organised by Barakat in Algiers on Wednesday and arrested some of its members.

A number of rallies were disrupted in the last week of the election campaign, some of them by Berber protesters in Kabylie backing calls for a boycott.
Read more on:    abdelaziz bouteflika  |  algeria  |  north africa  |  algeria elections 2014
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