With a presidential election on Thursday, most Algerians see a fourth term for the incumbent, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, as a foregone conclusion. Mr. Bouteflika has already been in power 15 years. In the last election in 2009, he was returned to office with an improbable 90 percent of the vote. So tightly controlled is this North African country that, virtually alone in the region, it passed on the Arab Spring. Yet even as the re-election of Mr. Bouteflika, 77, appears inevitable, his insistence on running again, despite his apparent frail health, has increased popular exasperation, revealed unusual signs of division within the ruling elite and provoked an unlikely show of solidarity among opposition parties, both secular and Islamic, which have united in a call to boycott the election. Exceptionally, a nascent urban middle-class youth movement, Barakat! (“Enough!” in Arabic), styled along the lines of the protests organized through social media during the Arab Spring, has begun campaigning against another term for Mr. Bouteflika. In recent weeks, it broke a taboo by holding small political protests here on the streets of the capital.
Elsewhere, a violent protest forced the former prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, to cancel a rally in support of the president on April 5 in Bejaia, 150 miles east of here, when hundreds of demonstrators blocked streets and threw stones. Part of the cultural center where Mr. Sellal was to speak was burned and police officers and journalists were wounded in hours of clashes, the local media reported.
The signs of discontent tell of the frustration that has surrounded Mr. Bouteflika’s run in a country with about 30 percent unemployment, and where many chafe for change even as many more, perhaps, fear the instability that change might bring. The result has been a kind of political inertia embodied in Mr. Bouteflika and a public apathy about the campaign that may well translate into the low turnout that the opposition desires.
Supporters of the president emphasize his critical role in leading Algeria out of a devastating civil war in the 1990s, which killed 100,000 and began after the military stepped in to nullify elections won by Islamists. Algeria’s leadership has since seen the messy and violent aftermath of the Arab Spring as vindication for the course it took.