Monday, February 11, 2019

Algeria: Highlights of Bouteflika's Long Presidency

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will be seeking a fifth term in the April elections despite concerns about his fitness to lead the gas-rich North African country.

82-year-old Bouteflika has led the country for 20 years, and has withered several storms including a civil war, the 2011 Arab Spring and a nearly fatal stroke in 2013.

This article looks at highlights of his time at the helm of Algeria’s politics.

Algeria had been battered since 1992 by a civil war prompted by the sudden cancellation of elections the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was poised to win.

April 15, 1999: Backed by the army, he wins presidential elections after all six of his rivals withdraw, alleging rampant fraud.
September 16, 1999: Algerians overwhelmingly approve a referendum on Bouteflika’s civil reconciliation programme which offers partial amnesty to Islamic extremists involved in the conflict, in which 200,000 people died.
April 9, 2009: After changing the constitution to allow himself another five years in office following two mandates, he wins a third term with 90 percent of the votes.
January 2011: Food riots erupt amid the regional upheaval of the Arab Spring and five people are killed and more than 800 injured. It pushes Bouteflika to announce political reforms in April but the opposition says the measures are insufficient.
April-July 2013: Bouteflika spends almost three months in hospital in Paris after suffering a mini-stroke. He will make several hospital stays in Europe in the future.
April 17, 2014: He is elected for a fourth term with 81.5 percent of the vote, despite not campaigning and voting from a wheelchair.
January 30, 2016: He tightens his grip on power by disbanding the DRS intelligence agency, considered by many a “state within a state”. Its chief, the powerful Mohamed Mediene, had been already been fired months earlier.

Will ailing Bouteflika win again?

Bouteflika’s 2014 presidential bid was met with opposition from senior military officers and protests as his poor health stoked doubts over his ability to govern.

A record number (up to 186) of candidates want to run for Algerian president in April’s election, more than double the number of potential candidates at this stage in the last vote in 2014.

The multitude of potential candidates suggests frustration with the status quo and Algeria’s political structure.

Bouteflika’s top challengers this year are former Prime Minister Ali Benflis, the runner-up in the 2014 election; influential retired Gen. Ali Ghediri; and the leader of a moderate Islamist party, Abderazak Makri.

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