Algerians find themselves divided once again after their president announced he would run for a fourth term, in April. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 76, has been in office for 15 years.
The news, which was announced by prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal, has ended months of speculation over Bouteflika’s political future after he has suffered a stroke last year.
The president had already registered his candidacy with the interior ministry, reported the Algerian news agency (APS), only 10 days before the March 4 deadline.
“President Bouteflika is in good health and he in possession of all his mental and intellectual faculties, as well as the necessary clear-sightedness to fulfil his duties,” said Sellal despite the opposition’s insistence that the president is too frail to govern.
The president made several trips to Paris for treatment last year and has not publicly addressed Algerians since he returned home.
“Bouteflika’s decision to run comes at the insistence of the people and after some deep reflection,” said Sellal. “He does not need to campaign himself, there are men who can campaign for him,” added the PM.
Loyalists view Bouteflika as the man who provided Algeria with economic stability after a bloody civil war between Islamists and secularists in the 1990s that killed around 200,000 people. Many Algerians have been cautious of any upheaval after that violence.
Backed by the ruling party, National Liberation Front (FLN), and other FLN allies, such as the National Democratic Rally (RND), Tadjamou Amal Jazair (TAJ) and the Algerian People’s Movement (MPA), Bouteflika is expected to be easily re-elected.
Due to its role in the war of independence against France, FLN has been the most powerful party since the 50s, which has allowed its senior leaders to dominate the country’s politics and tussle among themselves for influence behind closed doors.
Critics however have been vocal in voicing their demands for a new generation to take over and calling for a boycott against the election.
One opposition leader went further to even demand Bouteflika show his medical records before running for re-election again.