After nine years in power, Abdelaziz Bouteflika is widely credited with restoring some stability to Algeria after the bloodshed of the 1990s and of lifting his country out of international isolation.
Civil war broke out in Algeria in 1992 when the army-backed government scrapped elections which the radical Islamist party was expected to win.
Just before coming to power with more than 73 percent of the vote in 1999, Bouteflika outlined his objectives clearly:
“I want the people of Algeria to turn out en masse and express themselves clearly so that we can bring about the change that’s needed,” he said.
After his reelection in 2005, Bouteflika’s Charter for Peace and Reconciliation, aimed at ending civil war with an amnesty for suspected Islamists, was backed by an official 97 percent of the population.
“We want to turn to the page, we have been through some very difficult times, I don’t see how you could oppose this charter,” said one man, summing up many Algerians’ feelings.
The undeclared, 13-year conflict between the government and the Islamists claimed an estimated 150,000 lives. Thousands more disappeared.
Although the situation has calmed down, Algeria is still battling insurgents from al Qaeda’s north African wing, who have been behind a series of suicide bombings and shootings.
Bouteflika also faces public discontent over his failure to use energy revenue to improve the lives of many people in this country, whose oil and gas reserves have made it Africa’s third richest.
Unemployment, particularly among young people, remains high in Algeria which is plagued by a lack affordable housing.
However, in the current political climate, no clear opposition emerges.
Supporters of Bouteflika say a third term would mean stability and a strenghthening of the economy.
But critics argue change is long overdue in Algeria, accusing Bouteflika of failing to diversify the oil-dependent economy and of virtually eliminating any opposition.