Magharebia (Washington DC)

Algeria Sets Presidential Election Date

Photo: Summit Photo
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika arriving at a G8 summit (file photo).

Algiers — Ten years after losing the Algerian presidential race to Abdelaziz Bouteflika, former premier Ali Benflis on Sunday (January 19th) declared his intention to run again.

But no one can predict a rematch of the 2004 ballot, since Bouteflika has not said whether he would seek re-election.

The health of the 76-year-old president continues to dominate political discussion.

Bouteflika returned to Algeria last Thursday from France, where he had been undergoing medical tests. The next day, he announced that the next presidential election would be held on April 17th.

When the Algerian president was admitted to the Val-de-Grâce Hospital in Paris last Monday, speculation arose that the election might be postponed.

Medical tests showed a "clear improvement" in Bouteflika's health, according to the president's office.

The news sparked commentary from politicians and the public.

"The date of the presidential election would be honoured, contrary to the speculation and rumours peddled by certain groups," said Senator Nouara Djaafar, a member of the National Rally for Democracy (RND).

"We supported him in 1999 and we will continue to do so," the RND lawmaker added. The National Liberation Front (FLN) has adopted the same stance.

"The President intended to summon the electorate today and to honour this time-limit," FLN official Said Bouhadja told Magharebia.

"His trip to the Val-de-Grâce for a routine check-up did not cause any worries," he added.

But some in the opposition see the medical tests as part of Bouteflika's plan to stand for a fourth term in office.

According to Lakhdar Benkhelaf, the deputy leader of Islamist party El-Adala, the president travelled to the Paris hospital "with just one aim - to collect a medical certificate, which is one of the key documents for an application to run for president".

"The wheels have been set in motion for Bouteflika's fourth term in office," Benkhelaf said.

The latest announcement revived talk of the boycott option advocated by the Ennahdha Party.

Ennahda's Mohamed Douibi has described the "lack of faith in the will of the people shown by the authorities" as "appalling".

The Algerian public is waiting to see what will happen.

"With three months to go until the presidential election, we still don't know who the candidates for this race are, and that's not quite the way things should be," Ilham Chabi, an academic, told Magharebia.

For his part, Algiers resident Salim Ben Amer said he hoped that the presidential would "embody the principle of the peaceful rotation of power in Algeria".

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