Thousands of people took to the streets in Algiers and other cities on Thursday chanting “No vote! We want freedom!” as Algerian authorities held a presidential election that protesters view as a charade to keep the ruling elite in power.
In the capital, police rushed the crowd with sticks to disperse the marchers, but fell back as more protesters arrived. One young man of about 25 shouted “We are free!” as a policeman tried to arrest him.
The military-backed government sees the vote as the only way to end 10 months of unrest that brought down veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April. The demonstrators say no vote to replace him can be legitimate while the old guard still holds sway.
All five candidates that won approval to stand are former senior officials. A second-round run-off will be held if none wins an outright majority.
No result is expected on Thursday, but officials said 33 percent of registered voters had cast ballots by 1600 GMT, two hours before polls closed. There were no foreign observers monitoring the polls and protesters may dispute official figures.
In the center of the capital Algiers, some people were voting as police patrolled the streets on foot and in vehicles. A helicopter circled overhead.
Algerians protest through day of disputed election