Algeria’s Bouteflika offers ‘democracy’ if re-elected

The ailing president’s decision to seek a fourth term has drawn heavy criticism

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Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s campaign chief promised on Sunday that constitutional changes would create a “broad democracy” if the ailing incumbent wins re-election next month.

Former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal gave scant details of the long-promised changes as he opened the re-election campaign with a speech in the southern desert town of Adrar.

Sellal was one of six senior regime figures who fanned out across the vast North African country to campaign on behalf of the president, who is too sick to take to the hustings himself.

Bouteflika’s decision to seek a fourth term despite a mini-stroke, which confined him to hospital in Paris for three months last year, has drawn heavy criticism not only in opposition ranks but also from some within the regime.

Former President Liamine Zeroual has slammed the 2008 constitutional amendment that allowed Bouteflika to seek and win a third term and demanded a handover of power.

Sellal told the rally in Adrar that the constitutional changes, first promised in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region in 2011, would be adopted this year.

“Algeria will have a broad democracy, a participatory democracy. Every citizen will take part in the country’s development,” said Sellal, who stepped down as prime minister to run Bouteflika’s re-election campaign.

“We are going to expand the rights of the people’s elected representatives and the opposition parties will have their constitutional rights,” he told a crowd of about 1,000 people.

Sellal gave no further details of the proposed changes, a draft of which he handed to Bouteflika in September last year.

Press reports had suggested that the changes might create a post of vice president but that was denied by Sellal on Friday.

The former premier, who was closely involved in the 2004 and 2009 campaigns that returned Bouteflika to power, insisted earlier this month that the president need not be on the road himself to campaign for re-election.

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