Algeria's Bouteflika Poised to Win Elections
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Ailing incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika was poised to clinch a fourth presidential term despite chronic health problems after polls closed in Algeria's election that saw 70 people wounded in protests.
Voting ended by 19:00 GMT at polling booths across the vast North Africa country on Thursday, but with the count now under way, the 77-year-old president who has been in power since 1999 remains the firm favourite of the six candidates.
In his first public appearance in two years, a smiling Bouteflika arrived at a voting center in Algiers mid-morning in a wheelchair, waving but making no comment to reporters covering an election tainted by fraud warnings and boycott calls.
All eyes are on the turnout and any signs of vote rigging, with officials saying 37.06 percent of the electorate had voted by 17:00 GMT and a third of the polling stations staying open an extra hour.
The official result is due on Friday.
Sporadic violence marred the election process, especially in the Kabylie, a restive, mostly Berber region east of Algiers.
Clashes at three places in Bouira province, between police and youths seeking to disrupt the vote, wounded at least 70 people, local sources said, while small protests by activists shouting anti-government slogans were quickly snuffed out in the capital.
In the Kabylie village of Raffour, anti-government sentiment was palpable, with masked youths armed with slings and chanting hostile slogans confronting police who fired tear gas.
For Algeria's independent newspapers, the election outcome is a foregone conclusion, Al Jazeera reported.
"It's just a matter of the curtain coming down this evening on a bad taste political drama," commented El Watan, saying the election lacked credibility.
Youth activists and opposition parties had urged Algerians to snub the election, as many question whether Bouteflika is fit to rule.
He has been seen only rarely on television in recent months, looking frail and barely audible, after suffering a mini-stroke last year which confined him to hospital for three months.
When he last appeared in public, in the run-up to a May 2012 parliamentary election, Bouteflika addressed Algeria's youth to declare: "My generation has served its time."
His intention to seek re-election, announced in February, sparked derision and at times scathing criticism in the independent media.
However, Bouteflika remains popular with many Algerians, especially for helping to end the devastating civil war of the 1990s, in which up to 200,000 people were killed.