x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Algeria’s aging president to stand for reelection in April

Algeria's president Abdelaziz Bouteflika will run for reelection in April's polls, according to his political ally prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

Algeria's president Abdelaziz Bouteflika  in Algiers on January 14, 2013. Mr Bouteflika was in a Paris hospital for examinations on April 28, 2013 after suffering a mini-stroke, but is reportedly not experiencing any lasting effects from his latest health scare. Farouk Batiche/ AFP Photo
Algeria's president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers on January 14, 2013. Mr Bouteflika was in a Paris hospital for examinations on April 28, 2013 after suffering a mini-stroke, but is reportedly not experiencing any lasting effects from his latest health scare. Farouk Batiche/ AFP Photo

ALGIERS // Ailing Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika will stand for reelection in April, prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal said in comments carried by national television on Saturday.

“The prime minister officially announces the candidacy of the president of the (Algerian) republic for the coming elections,” due on April 17, a screen caption read.

Mr Sellal was speaking in Oran, west of Algiers, on the sidelines of an economic seminar.

The television said Mr Bouteflika will collect the necessary documents for his candidacy from the interior ministry on Sunday, but added that he might send someone else to do so.

The television said his decision was a “response to the encouragement of citizens from all over the country.”

The 76-year-old, who has been in power for 15 years, suffered a mini-stroke last year that confined him to a Paris hospital for three months. It has been unclear whether his health would prevent him from running for reelection.

One of the few remaining veterans of the war of independence against France, Mr Bouteflika came to power in 1999. The latest years of his rule have been dogged by ill health and more recently by corruption scandals implicating members of his inner circle.

He also tried to check the power of Algeria’s unelected military and intelligence leaders, who have played a key role in the North African country’s politics since its independence from France in 1962.

Despite his efforts to roll back their prerogatives the army and its secretive DRS intelligence agency retain much of the political power they have wielded.

Recent weeks have seen a mounting war of words over the role of the military in public life, relayed by Algeria’s independent media, in which senior officers were portrayed as opposing a fourth term for the Mr Bouteflika.

Earlier this month, a retired senior general urged Mr Bouteflika to step down “with dignity” and not run for reelection.

Hocine Benhadid also accused the president’s inner circle of “treason” after Amar Saidani, the ruling party’s secretary general, publicly accused the powerful military intelligence chief of interfering in politics to the detriment of the country’s security.

But the president himself hit out on Tuesday at what he said were moves to undermine his office and the army, suggesting both were falling prey to political infighting.

“The fictitious conflict ... within the ranks of the People’s National Army is linked to a destabilisation plan developed by those troubled by Algeria’s regional weight and influence,” he said in comments published by state media.

Mr Bouteflika did not elaborate on the destabilising activities to which he referred.

* AFP