Algerian nomads begin voting

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iol pic afr Algeria Elections

Algiers -

Algerian nomads began voting on Monday for the April 17 presidential election at 167 mobile polling stations in the country's vast desert interior, the authorities said.

The process began in Ouargla, Illizi, Tamanrasset and Tindouf, the national APS news agency reported, adding that about 90 000 voters were able to cast their ballots 72 hours before the rest of the country.

About 23 million Algerians are eligible to vote in Thursday's leadership contest, at about 12 000 voting centres and 50 000 polling booths, choosing between six candidates.

Campaigning ended on Sunday after the incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is seeking a fourth term, waged a war of words with his only real rival Ali Benflis.

The 77-year-old Bouteflika, despite his poor health preventing him from appearing in person on the campaign trail, remains firm favourite to win.

Late on Saturday, Bouteflika made a rare television appearance - only his second since campaigning began - to accuse Benflis of fomenting violence, referring to his former prime minister's warning of electoral fraud.

Amnesty International on Monday accused the authorities in Algeria of silencing critics and stepping up curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to the presidential election. - Sapa-AFP

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