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Restive Algeria holds sole presidential debate before poll

Restive Algeria is holding its first — and sole — televised presidential debate Friday, ahead of the consequential Dec. 12 poll.

It is a crucial time for Algeria after nationwide pro-democracy protests forced ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika out of power in April. But the country’s 9-month-old mass movement believes the presidential poll is a sham and fear it will be rigged in favor of the old regime.

Five men — Azzedine Mihoubi, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Abdelkader Bengrina, Ali Benflis and Abdelaziz Belaid — are vying to make their case Friday evening to lead the North African country.

Algerian presidential candidate Ali Benlis arrives for televised debate in Algiers, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Restive Algeria is holding its first - and sole - televised presidential debate ahead of the consequential Dec. 12 poll. Five all-male candidates - Azzedine Mihoubi, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Abdelkader Bengrina, Ali Benflis et Abdelaziz Belaid - are vying to make their case Friday evening to lead the North African country. (AP PhotoFateh Guidoum)

The election is being managed by the long-serving power structure of this oil- and gas-rich country with a strategic role in the Mediterranean region.

Instead of new faces, two of the candidates are former prime ministers and one is a loyalist of Algeria’s influential army chief.

Algerian presidential candidate Abdelkader Bengrina arrives for televised debate in Algiers, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Restive Algeria is holding its first - and sole - televised presidential debate ahead of the consequential Dec. 12 poll. Five all-male candidates - Azzedine Mihoubi, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Abdelkader Bengrina, Ali Benflis et Abdelaziz Belaid - are vying to make their case Friday evening to lead the North African country. (AP PhotoFateh Guidoum)