Algeria’s ailing 81-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will stand for re-election for a fifth consecutive term in the upcoming 2019 polls, his party head has confirmed to state news agency APS.
National Liberation Front chief Djamel Ould Abbes said Bouteflika, who has been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in 2013, will be the party’s candidate in the vote set for April 2019.
“Bouteflika… is the candidate of the FLN for the presidential election. His candidacy has been demanded by all the FLN cadres and activists across the country,” Ould Abbes told a meeting of party legislators.
In 2008, Bouteflika scrapped constitutional rules limiting presidents to two terms in office and won a disputed election the following year with 90 per cent of the vote. He was re-elected again in 2014 with over 80 per cent of the vote, despite the military initially recommending that he not stand due to his failing health.
The veteran leader’s abilities have been substantially diminished since his stroke, forcing him to work from his residence in Zeralda, west of the capital Algiers, and to travel to France and Switzerland for medical treatment. His speech has also been affected; the president last addressed the country more than six years ago.
In preparation for the election, last month Bouteflika fired both Ground Forces Commander Major General Ahsan Tafer and Air Force Commander Major General Abdelkader Lounas, the latest in a series of dismissals undertaken by the government of senior military and security figures. The move is believed to be aimed at eliminating all those who could stand against the election bid.
Earlier this year, Algerian politicians and intellectuals asked Bouteflika not to run for a fifth term in 2019. In a letter published in May, 14 politicians, scholars and academics called on the president to “abandon the fifth pledge” and not to run for the elections scheduled for 2019. The signatories included former prime minister and prominent opposition Ahmed Benbitour, and the head of the New Generation party, Sufian Gilali, who was at the forefront of those who rejected the fourth mandate, in addition to the political activist Amira Bouraoui, who has the slogan “Barakat” meaning enough, and others.
Some 40 per cent of Algeria’s 41 million population is under 25 and many of them know no leader other than Bouteflika. The Algerian economy also remains stagnant, with the devaluation of the dinar, low oil prices and falling foreign exchange reserves.
However, Bouteflika’s presidency has been preferred by many who look to the continuing chaos in neighbouring Libya, following the ousting of dictator Muammar Gaddafi during the “Arab Spring” seven years ago.