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Algeria: Presidential election held despite protests 

This will be the first election since former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced out after a two-decade-long rule in April.

Algerians head to the polls today in a controversial presidential election where the candidates on offer are from the same despised regime that sparked mass protest at the beginning of the year.

This will be the first election since former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced out after a two-decade-long rule in April.

The fall of the 81-year-old, who had at one point put himself forward for re-election despite mounting anger over his rule, was prompted by 1 million people marching in protest.

Today’s vote is the third attempt at a presidential election. The two previous elections were deferred due to the unprecedented leaderless protest movement, commonly referred to as the Hirak, which erupted in February.

The build-up to the election has been mired by controversy.  Protesters have complained that the candidates on offer do not represent genuine choices for the electorate.

Despite their 10-month campaign to get rid of the old guard, the current candidates will keep in power the ruling hierarchy they have been trying to oust since February.

On Tuesday student demonstrators again surged through Algiers chanting “we will not vote” and “we want freedom.”

READ: Algeria’s year of protest and turmoil

Two former prime ministers and other senior figures were jailed for corruption in an apparent effort to mollify protesters.

Campaigners insist that no election can be free or fair as long as members of the old regime remain in power and the military continues to be involved in the country’s political life.

The current conditions, they insist, do not offer a real choice for the country’s 24 million voters.

Despite their efforts to get it cancelled, today’s election went ahead with polling stations opening at 07:00 GMT.

Algeria: Army leadership has no political ambitions - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Algeria: Army leadership has no political ambitions – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sources in Algeria told MEMO that nobody has been going to the polling stations and that authorities have blocked social media to prevent people from organising themselves.

Their frustration was summed up by Mohamed Kirat of Qatar University who told Al Jazeera that demonstrators on the streets had wanted “radical change of the political system” from the beginning of the uprising, but that their aspirations have failed to materialise.

“The five candidates for the presidency are from the former regime, so what kinds of things are they going to bring to their agenda?” Kirat asked.

Protests are also expected outside Algeria. Sit-ins are being planned in several French cities, including Paris.

READ: Largest Islamic party in Algeria decides rejects all presidential candidates

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