7 March 2014

Algeria Presidential Race Sparks Political Firestorm

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

Algiers — Algerian security forces on Thursday (March 6th) arrested about 100 people protesting a possible fourth term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The Algiers demonstration reflects the heated political debate swirling around the April 17th presidential poll.

Of the 130 candidates who said they were running, only twelve had submitted their applications to the Constitutional Council by the Tuesday midnight deadline. The council now has ten days to approve or reject the applications.

In addition to President Bouteflika, the candidate pool includes other regulars: Algerian National Front President Mousa Touati, Algerian Rally President Ali Zaghdoud, Worker's Party Secretary-General Louisa Hanoune and former Prime Minister Ali Benflis.

The parliamentary majority National Liberation Front (FLN), the National Democratic Rally, the Algerian People's Movement, and the Rally for Algerian Hope support the 77-year-old president, other parties back Benflis and some plan to boycott the election altogether.

Many candidates withdrew from the race upon hearing that Bouteflika would seek a fourth term, including Jil Jadid (New Generation) President Sofiane Djilali and former Prime Minister Ahmed Benbitour.

The focal point of this election, however, remains President Bouteflika.

"The president's health is normal," said Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, who is set to run President Bouteflika's election campaign along with former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelaziz Belkadem.

Meanwhile, the Barakat (Enough) movement took to Algiers's streets again on Thursday into shout their opposition to another term for the president. Similar protests were launched by students in Tizi Ouzou and Ouargla.

Amira Bouraoui, a Barakat leader, explained the origin of the movement.

"During his latest speech to the nation [May 8th, 2012], Abdelaziz Bouteflika said that his generation was done and that we needed to give way to the youth. We believed in this and we waited for the 2014 presidential election to see him go. This running for a fourth term is an affront," said Bouraoui.

Meanwhile, Bouteflika's supporters claim to have gathered 5 million signatures and are already on the campaign trail, which includes launching an extensive social-networking operation. And Prime Minister Sellal continues to defend President Bouteflika's record.

"We have learned to live in peace and we will fight to protect it," Sellal said Thursday in Tipaza.

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