Bouteflika ‘recovering’ for Algeria elections

Sellal, Bouteflika’s main campaigner, says the Algerian president is recovering but needs more days before he can properly walk again

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The 77-year-old Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is steadily “recovering” from a stroke he had last year, talks with his team every day and is healthy enough to govern after the election on April 17, Reuters reported his chief ally as saying on Saturday.

“He has all the health he needs to carry out his responsibilities. I speak with him every day by telephone. He follows the campaign daily,” Abdelmalek Sellal, who resigned as prime minister to campaign for Bouteflika, told Reuters in an interview in Algiers, after campaigning in the eastern city of Annaba.


He added: “His voice is starting to return, and he needs some more days before he can walk well again.”

“He is not sick, he is recovering.”

Sellal also said the president planned constitutional reforms to strengthen democracy, with term limits for the president and wider powers for opposition parties if he wins.

Questions about Bouteflika’s health and Algeria’s stability are key for Western governments, who see the north African state as a partner in the campaign against Islamist militancy in the Maghreb, and a stable supplier of gas to Europe.

To show that he is robust and highly involved in the country’s politics, Bouteflika, who has rarely appeared in public in recent months, appeared on state television to address Algerians on Saturday.

Seeking a fourth term in April 17 elections, Bouteflika accused his main rival of having called for violence during the campaign, Agence France-Presse reported.

“When a candidate threatens walis (provisional governors) and the authorities to beware for our families and children in case of [election] fraud, what does that mean?” he asked, speaking on state television.

That’s “terrorism via the television,” said Bouteflika, referring to his chief rival Ali Benflis, who has warned against electoral fraud.

In remarks televised on Wednesday, Benflis said that “fraud is haram,” or forbidden.

“Fraud and usage of fraud is haram. I am speaking to walis: you have family, think about protecting them,” he said.

Bouteflika noted that “at certain moments,” the electoral campaign that ends Sunday has “lacked elegance.”

“There are calls to violence and unorthodox and anti-democratic behavior,” he said.

Bouteflika remains popular with many Algerians who credit him with helping to end a devastating civil war and contain Arab Spring protests.

(With the Associated Press and AFP)

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