The North African country of Algeria went to the polls yesterday, and is expected to have re-elected 77-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fourth term. Bouteflika announced his candidacy in February, which yielded protests, as USA Today reported:
That set off anger in the North African country that has been the notable exception to the violent revolutionary fervor of the Arab Spring that swept most of the region three years ago.
Now the opposition has called for a boycott of the elections with slogans such as: "Enough," "No to the 4th Term" and "April 17th: Day of national mourning."
"We are here today to march against the election of shame, the election of the mafia, a presidential election that has no legitimacy and that is already rigged," said Rifat Zireb, a member of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), a secular opposition party, demonstrating in Bejaia, in northern Algeria earlier this week. "We call on everyone to boycott the vote."
Bouteflika is expected to win by a wide margin, so it would appear the boycott was a success (anti-Bouteflika voters stayed home) and a failure (Bouteflika won), the typical way boycotts of the ballot end.
Supporters of Bouteflika, who is credited with pulling the country out of a quagmire of terrorism and ending its Islamist civil war after he came into power in 1999, don't want to see the effects of the Arab Spring in their country. Via USA Today again:
"We don't want Algeria to be at war," said Boutheyna Mokdad, a 25-year-old student who attended Bouteflika's rally in Algiers on Sunday. "We have lived through the black decade, we know what it means to have no hope in the future.
"And we don't want an Arab Spring like in Tunisia and Egypt, where now people regret what they did and want to go back," she added. "As long as he gives us security, all we need is water and bread and that's enough."
Showing up to vote at the polling station was Bouteflika's first public appearance since 2012. The campaign was ran largely by proxy. In his last appearance, Bouteflika told a group of young people that his "generation has served its time." Bouteflika's largely military cohort has ruled the country since its 1962 independence, when Bouteflika began to serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs.