BOBIGNY/NANTERRE: France’s massive Algerian community turned out yesterday to vote in a presidential election widely expected to be won by ailing Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is running for a fourth term.
Voting opened early for some 815,000 expatriate Algerians, France’s largest immigrant group, who are eligible to vote in the elections.
Polls remain open until Thursday, when the election takes place in Algeria.
At the Algerian consulate in Seine-Saint-Denis, a suburb to the east of Paris where more than 90,000 Algerians are registered, enthusiastic voters turned out from 8 am.
Stili, a 78-year-old former construction worker, proudly showed the indelible ink on his finger indicating he had cast his ballot.
“I came to vote on the first day to give an example, especially to the young,” he said.
He plumped for Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999. “Even if he is old and sick, he is good for the country and has calmed it down,” Stili said.
Bouteflika, 77, has rarely appeared in public in recent months, and his decision to run for a fourth term has sparked criticism from senior political figures who have questioned his ability to rule after suffering a mini-stroke last year.
But he remains popular with many Algerians who credit him with helping to end a devastating civil war and contain Arab Spring protests.
“He’s too old but have we found someone better than him?” asked Halima, 51, after casting her vote at the consulate in Nanterre, to the west of Paris.
“Since he’s been there, the situation in the country has only improved.”
However, despite the enthusiasm shown by many Algerians, one man, a supporter of Ali Benflis, Bouteflika’s main rival, said he had been verbally abused for expressing his allegiance.
“I was called a traitor,” said the man, an election observer for the Benflis camp, who declined to give his name.
“I noticed that a ballot paper had been put on the wrong pile, so I told them.”
There were signs that some of the younger voters were showing less enthusiasm for the Algerian election than their elders.
“It’s not going to alter anything. The match has been decided in the changing rooms,” said Karim, 28.
Kamel, 37, agreed, saying that Bouteflika “hasn’t done anything in three terms in power”.
“Look what the Turkish prime minister has managed in 10 years! We need to pass the torch to the young.”
ALGIERS: A man was killed yesterday in the southern Algerian town of Ghardaia, the second fatality in less than 24 hours of ethnic violence between Berbers and Arabs in the region.
A Berber in his forties was stabbed early last morning, Hamou Mesbah, a senior member of the opposition Socialist Forces Front, said.
And Abdallah Zekri, spokesman for the Collective of Mozabites (Berbers) in Europe, said the man had been taken “by a gang, tortured, stabbed” and his corpse “thrown in front of a mosque.”
Zekri said the dead man’s family needed police protection to recover his body.
Ghardaia has been the scene of violence since December, when fighting erupted between Berbers and Arabs, known as Chaambas.
The violence has killed 10 people and wounded more than 400.
On Friday, a man was killed when unrest erupted outside a mosque in Berriane, 45 kilometres north of Ghardaia, after weekly prayers.
The Mozabite and Chaamba communities have lived together for centuries, but tensions have risen sharply since vandals destroyed a historic Berber shrine in December, touching off the violence.