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Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Voting 'caravans' roam Algerian desert
Queuing in the desert to vote
Bringing ballot boxes to Algeria's nomads
Mobile voting "caravans" are roving Algeria's remote southern provinces in an attempt to track down the country's nomadic electorate in time for Thursday's local assembly elections.

There are fears that voter turnout will hit an all-time low after May's general election, when only 46% cast their ballot.

In an attempt to boost participation, the authorities are pulling out all the stops to track down nomadic voters.

Convoys of specialised four-wheeled-drive jeeps carrying ballot boxes are acting as mobile voting stations for the isolated regions.

Blue men

Due to the long distances covered, the convoys have been given up to three days to reach voters.

Nomadic woman votes
There are fears voter turnout will hit an all-time low

An election official from Bechar Province, around 800 kilometres southwest of Algiers, told Algerian radio that the convoys are equipped with security and emergency services to ensure "the process goes well".

A report on Algerian TV focuses on the 230 km journey undertaken by mobile voting station number 13 to bring the elections to "the blue men" in the Afra region.

"Blue men" is the name given to Tuareg nomads because the indigo dye on their clothes stains their skin blue.

A 74-year-old woman told the television that the mobile ballot boxes have enabled her to carry out her election duty.

"She hopes that the local elections will open the door to good things for the people of Afra and other isolated regions," the TV reports.

Voter apathy

Low participation in the southern desert regions is not the only concern for the government.

It is a strong bet that on the morning of 10 October, voters will not tear themselves out of their beds to go to the ballot boxes

Liberte

The authorities hope that an acceptable turnout will be also be achieved in the restive Berber-speaking Kabylie region to pave the way for a gradual normalisation of the situation in the area.

A call by Berber leaders for a boycott of the May elections led to just 2% of voters in two provinces of the region bothering to cast their vote.

But, despite the best efforts of the government to attract attention for the poll, there appears to be little enthusiasm amongst voters.

Nomad at mobile polling station
There seems to be little enthusiasm among voters

"It is a strong bet that on the morning of 10 October, voters will not tear themselves out of their beds at the crack of dawn to go to the ballot boxes," says an editorial in the daily newspaper Liberte.

The paper says the candidates have done little to address the main concerns of the electorate, which include "housing and land shortages, corruption, unemployment, the fraudulent assigning of public deals and financial scandals".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

05 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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