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  • Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest to reject the presidential election in Algiers, Algeria, Dec. 12, 2019.

    Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest to reject the presidential election in Algiers, Algeria, Dec. 12, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 December 2019

Thousands of citizens preferred to take the streets to keep on protesting against the old ruling class.

Algeria's presidential elections, which the opposition has billed as a farce, were marked by massive protests and empty polling stations on Thursday.

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Polling stations closed their doors with little attendance from citizens after a day marked by massive demonstrations and the boycott of elections, especially in the northern region of Kabylia.

In Algiers, polls closed at 7:00 p.m. (local time) with a small number of ballots inside and a smaller influx of voters than in previous consultations. Riot police could be seen on almost every corner of the capital city, especially along Rue Didouche Mourad, one of the main commercial thoroughfares.

The National Independent Authority of Elections (ANIE) president Mohamed Charfi reported that the highest participation rate reached just 33 percent at 5:00 pm.

The highest attendance happened in Naama, the hometown of candidate Abdelmajid Tebboune, and the lowest participation occurred in Kabylia, where the boycott of the elections was overwhelming.

"In a certain region, the elections are simply annulled," said Charfi in an apparent allusion to that region, where the Kabyle people confronted the police firmly and entered polling stations to break the ballots.

Charfi did not mention either what had been the participation index in Algiers, a city where the voter attendance was practically null during the morning, for the streets were full of protests.

"Coup d'etat carried out with the rules of false democracy that reigns throughout the world. However, finally, let it be known that free and democratic Algeria is urgent."

The election results are expected to be unveiled on Friday, the day on which the protest movement Hirak called for a new march, as has happened every Friday since Feb. 22.

On Thursday the Algerians were summoned to elect a successor to the former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned after being brought down by 10 months of continuous social unrest.

For several months, however, citizens have been expressing their rejection of the Dec. 12 presidential elections whereby the old ruling class seeks to retain their power.

The five presidential candidates are former prime ministers Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Ali Benflis, ex-culture minister Azzedddine Mihoubi, former Tourism Minister Abdelkader Bengrine, and Abdelaziz Belaid, a former member of the ruling party's central committee.

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