Despondent Algerians head to the polls amid economic uncertainty

Despondent Algerians head to the polls amid economic uncertainty
Apathy has overtaken this year's elections in Algeria as memories of electoral fraud and government corruption hang over the event.
2 min read
Algeria votes in its parliamentary elections on Thursday [NurPhoto]

Algerians headed to the polls in parliamentary elections on Thursday but the mood has been characterised by prevailing apathy and despondency as economic woes play on the minds of voters.

Amid the concerns of Algerians is the country's ongoing crisis, brought on from years of low oil prices that have effectively left the Algiers bankrupt.

Government officials have been worried about an exceptionally low turn-out as a result and have opted for goading citizens into casting their ballot.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal called for a "massive vote", and said that women should wake their husbands up early, refuse them coffee and then "drag" them to the voting booth.

"If they resist, hit them with a stick," he said.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said a strong turnout was essential for "the stability of the country".

A total of 12,000 candidates are standing for 462 seats in the People's National Assembly, with a registered electorate of 23 million.

But voters are angry over the sheer number of political promises that are not kept and the rising social and economic problems that affect the country's 40 million people.

In a YouTube video seen by more than two million people, one Algerian said that government promises on housing and health care had not been kept.

Previous elections have also been affected by accusations of widespread fraud.

The Green Alliance of Islamist parties accused the government of "perpetrating widespread fraud" in 2012.

The prime minister told angry voters "to be patient" about the economy on Saturday.

"There is no more money" in state accounts, he said.

A 2014 collapse in oil prices forced the suddenly cash-strapped government to take up austerity, by increasing taxes and closing a number of public projects.