Abdelaziz Bouteflika is running for president in Algeria for the fourth time, at age 77. Even with a stroke behind him, it’s thought he’ll win again.
Bouteflika has not campaigned this time — given his weak state of health. Others have done it for him. But he has attacked his main opponent in the presidential race — during a visit by Spain’s foreign minister a few days ago.
Bouteflika said: “There are calls to violent action, unorthodox behaviour, undemocratic. When a candidate threatens the authorities to pay attention to our families, our children… Meaning what? That is terrorism by television!”
Ali Benflis is the candidate he meant — a former prime minister, former magistrate and former chief of staff. He directed Bouteflika’s winning 1999 campaign. Today, he is most credible with younger voters. His ambition is to make it through to a second round of voting. He mocks Bouteflika.
Benflis said: “A third term, a fourth term… that’s not my thing, that’s not me.”
Algeria’s 22 million voters will have six candidates to choose from. Yet the other four are far less strongly placed.
Louisa Hanoune, head of the Workers’ Party is on her third try. FNA conservative candidate Moussa Touati is running for the second time. It’s Ali Fawsi Rebaine of the “Generation of ’54” party’s third try — he’s equated Bouteflika’s past scores with a banana republic. Abdelaziz Belaid, since 2012 head of the FM Front for the Future party, is the youngest, born just after independence from former colonial power France in 1962.
But many Algerians feel change is not yet on the cards.
Analyst Foudil Boumala says: “These elections do not pave the way for an alternative or for political debate and ideas. They are a problem, heaped on top of the other big problems of Algeria.”
Unemployment is around 30 percent in Algeria, and worse for the young. No one likes this, but there was a civil war in the 1990s, and that decade of violence made many fear change and crave stability.