Algerians are voting Thursday in a presidential election that pits incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika against five challengers.

The president's main challenge comes from his former prime minister, Ali Benflis, who heads the National Liberation Front party.

Ahead of the vote, three candidates accused Mr. Bouteflika of planning to rig the election. But despite the controversy, the candidates have remained in the race -- unlike in 1999 when all of Mr. Bouteflika's challengers withdrew saying the vote was rigged and not worth contesting.

Under President Bouteflika, years of violence between Islamists and state security forces has effectively ended. Revenue from oil exports is up, and Algeria's relations with the international community have grown.

But the president's challengers say rampant unemployment, widespread poverty and a lack of women's rights have plagued the country under his administration.

Other contenders include: Abdallah Djaballah, the leader of a moderate Islamist party; far-left candidate and the country's first female presidential hopeful, Louisa Hanoune; Said Saadi, the head of one of the main opposition parties who draws most of his support from the Berber-speaking region of Kabylie; and Ali Fawzi Rebaine, the leader of a small nationalist party.

Algeria's powerful military has remained in the background and not endorsed any candidate.

Observers say the outcome of the election is not certain. If no candidate wins a clear majority, a second round of voting will be held.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.