ALGIERS - Polls opened in Algeria on Thursday for a delayed presidential election that is opposed by a mass protest movement which wants the vote put off until the entire ruling elite steps down and the military quits politics.
The army, the strongest political player, sees the vote as the only way to restore order in Africa's largest country, a major natural gas supplier to Europe and home to 40 million people.
Early in the morning, it was quiet at one central Algiers polling station, though police were patrolling the city's streets on foot and in vehicles.
"The country has entered a critical phase," said Aziz Djibali, 56, who went to vote at a polling station near the prime minister's office.
"It's time for Algerians to voice their opinions peacefully."