The Algerians are awaiting Friday the results of the first round of the presidential election the day before, a vote marked by a record abstention and vigorously rejected by the « Hirak », the popular protest movement that had won in April President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The Independent National Election Authority (Anie) said in an SMS received by AFP that its president Mohamed Charfi will announce the results of the first round Friday at 11:00 a.m. (10:00 a.m. GMT), a time when Algerians could invade the streets to the 43rd time as they have done for 42 weeks.
A possible second round will take place between December 31 and January 9. Thursday, only 39.93% of the registered voters voted in the first round (41.41% on the national territory and 8.69% for Algerians abroad), according to the president of Anie Mohamed Charfi.
This rate is the lowest of all the pluralist presidential elections in the history of Algeria. It is more than ten points lower than the previous poll – the weakest so far – which in 2014 saw Mr Bouteflika’s fourth victory.
No projection of results has been published. But the camp of Abdelmajid Tebboune, former brief prime minister of Mr. Bouteflika in 2017, claimed victory on Thursday evening in the first round. « According to the first elements in our possession (…) Abdelmadjid Tebboune won the presidential election, Abdelatif Belkaim, deputy director of communications for the candidate, told AFP.
Show of strength
Gloomy in many polling stations, the day was marked in Algiers by a show of force of the “Hirak” who braved a very strong police deployment to march in droves.
The “Hirak”, the “movement” of massive and unprecedented popular protest of the regime which forced Mr. Bouteflika to resign, categorically rejected the holding of this election, seen as a means of regeneration for the “system” in power since the independence of the country in 1962.
This movement demands the end of this « system » at the helm since independence in 1962, and the departure of all the old supporters or collaborators of the twenty years of Bouteflika’s presidency. What are the five presidential candidates (Abdelaziz Belaïd, Ali Benflis, Abdelkader Bengrina, Azzedine Mihoubi and Abdelmajid Tebboune).
After an initial attempt to abort the election in July, the army’s high command, the mainstay of the regime, openly in command since the departure of Mr. Bouteflika, insisted that the elections be organized to get out of the political crisis. institutional, which worsened the economic situation.
The face of this high command, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, chief of staff of the army, has been assuring for weeks that the participation would be « massive ».
A crowd estimated at several tens of thousands of people managed to invade the streets of the center of the capital, despite the systematic and often brutal interventions of the police with each attempted assembly.
“Makache l’vote” (no vote!), Chanted the crowd which separated in the late afternoon, before the police dispersed with the batons the hundred remaining protesters, according to a journalist from AFP.
During the day, a small group of protesters managed to break into an electoral center in the city center. Voting was briefly suspended while they were evacuated.
On Wednesday, personalities close to « Hirak » had urged the protesters not to « respond to provocations » to « not to prevent the exercise by other citizens of their right to express themselves freely » -a respected watchword in Algiers.
Voting was also normal across the country except in the traditionally rebellious and mostly Berber-speaking Kabylie region, where serious incidents occurred.
A polling center was ransacked, an antenna of the Anie was set on fire and the police force repelled using tear gas canisters of the demonstrators who were trying to enter the headquarters of the wilaya (prefecture) of Tizi- Ouzou, 90 km east of Algiers.
Clashes also between gendarmes and demonstrators in Tichy, near Béjaïa (180 km east of the capital), and left six wounded in the ranks of the police, according to a security source who requested anonymity .