The election campaign has been met with indifference as Algerians grapple with a pandemic-hit economy.

More than 23 million people are eligible to vote, with 15,230 candidates standing and results expected on Sunday. (AFP)

Algerians have begun voting in local elections seen as key in President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s push to turn the page on the two-decade rule of late president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The vote for municipal and provincial councils launched on Saturday sparked little public interest despite official campaigns urging Algerians to “make their mark”.

Tebboune, members of his family as well as the army’s chief of staff and other government officials were among the first to vote.

Campaigning had been muted despite calls by authorities on Algerians to take part if they “want change” and “institution building”.

“Nothing will change,” said Omar, an engineer who said he would not cast a ballot.

Yacine, a teacher, said he would be voting for rivals of the current Algiers mayor “even if I have no illusions” that they will be better.

Candidates traveled in caravans to meet voters, but the campaign overall has met widespread indifference.

Algerians “do not have the heart to vote when for the majority of them the daily bread and the carton of milk becomes problematic for them, because of the collapse of purchasing power,” said sociologist Nasser Djabbi.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0700 GMT) and are scheduled to close at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT).

Low turnout expected

Tebboune was elected in a contentious, widely boycotted 2019 ballot months after Bouteflika stepped down under pressure from the army and Hirak rallies.

He has vowed to break with local and regional elections marred by widespread claims of fraud in the era of Bouteflika, who died in September at the age of 84.

In a televised interview on Friday, Tebboune, a former prime minister under the late autocrat, called on Algerians to participate actively in the vote.

The election is the third vote in Algeria under Tebboune, who has vowed to reform state institutions inherited from Bouteflika, an autocrat who ruled the country for two decades.

More than 23 million people are eligible to vote, with 15,230 candidates standing and results expected on Sunday.

Algeria’s local assemblies elect two-thirds of members of the national parliament’s upper house, with the president appointing the remainder.

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