Voters are casting ballots Thursday for the 462-member parliament. About half of the 44 political parties competing were legalized this year.
The vote follows a series of constitutional reforms announced by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in a bid to appease pro-democracy protesters. The government has admitted international election observers for the first time as part of efforts to increase transparency.
Key Steps to Algerian Elections:
Sept. 2005: Vote grants partial amnesty for Islamic militants
April 2009: President Bouteflika wins third term
Feb. 2011: State of emergency lifted as Arab Spring uprisings spread
April 2011: Bouteflika vows reforms, constitutional revisions
March 2012: Front of Socialist Forces ends election boycott
April 2012: al Qaeda calls for parliamentary election boycott
Some voters quoted by foreign media say they have little reason to go to the polls, saying the outcome will make no difference.
Polling stations opened Thursday with state television showing voters pouring in.
But a 30-year-old Algerian told the French news agency that the election coverage on the state television was out of touch with reality, saying it was "like news from a foreign country."
Analysts say Islamist parties are expected to gain ground in Thursday's voting, a move that would echo gains in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
Results are not expected until at least Friday.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.