Algeria is gearing up for parliamentary elections, which authorities have pledged will be the freest ever.

Nearly 22 million Algerians are registered to vote for 44 parties, half of which were just legalised this year, for a parliament that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika promises will have a say in rewriting the constitution.

But after decades of repression and rigged contests, turnout in Thursday’s vote may not surpass the 35 per cent seen in the last elections in 2007.

Algeria’s youth, who account for close to three quarters of the 37 million inhabitants, looks set to abstain en masse amid fears over the vote’s credibility and deep distrust of the political class.

In messages exchanged on Facebook, some young Algerians were wishing one another a “happy no-vote day”.

Hacene Ferhati, an activist with SOS Disparus, an association which fights for justice in the cases of Algerian citizens who were forcibly disappeared by government forces during the civil war in the 1990s, said he would not be voting.

“I have decided not to vote because le pouvoir [the Algerian regime] has been lying to us for 50 years,” he told Al Jazeera. “There is extensive vote-rigging every time, and why would this time be any different?”

Algeria scrapped its one-party system in 1989, but in 1991 the government cancelled general elections after the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of voting. Cancellation of that election led to a decade of violence in which about 200,000 people were killed.  Read more…