Algerians are casting votes in presidential elections with incumbent president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, widely expected to win a fourth term in office.
More than 260,000 police officers have been deployed to protect some 50,000 polling stations across the African country during the polling process on Thursday.
According to reports, about 23 million people are eligible to vote in a contest between six candidates.
Bouteflika, who is seeking to extend his 15-year rule despite health problems, seems to be the firm favorite while the strongest challenge against him is expected to come from former premier, Ali Benflis, who decided to run for president after almost ten years of political absence.
The 77-year-old Algerian president suffered a mini-stroke last year. There are also reports that he underwent medical examinations at a hospital in Paris in January. Bouteflika’s opponents say he is too frail to seek another term in office.
Meanwhile, some opposition groups have boycotted the elections, saying it is unfairly tilted in favor of the ruling party and its allies. They have also mounted a campaign called Barakat – meaning “enough.” Opponents say the vote is “farcical.”
Under the Algerian electoral law, each presidential candidate is required to gather at least 60,000 signatures from supporters across at least 25 provinces, with a minimum of 1,500 signatures from each.
There were reports of sporadic election-related violence in Algeria just weeks prior to the elections.
On Wednesday, Algiers police dispersed a group of opposition activists protesting against growing unemployment and economic woes in the country.