Algerian PM calls on ailing president Bouteflika to seek fifth term

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Algeria’s prime minister called on the country’s president Thursday to seek a fifth term next year despite his age and partial paralysis.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair, hasn’t yet made known if he’ll run in the North African nation’s April 2019 election, when he will be 82-years-old.

Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said at the opening of his party’s national council that Bouteflika twice saved Algeria, first with his policy of reconciliation that allowed Islamist insurgents who nearly brought down the state in the 1990s to rejoin civilian life, and then during the Arab Spring chaos that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Libya.

Bouteflika “is the man of national reconciliation who returned stability to Algeria after the bloody and destructive terrorist decade of the 1990s,” Ouyahia said, noting that an estimated 200,000 people died in the violence which also damaged the nation financially and psychologically.

Bouteflika hasn't yet made known if he'll run next year, by which time he'll be 82. (Reuters)
Bouteflika hasn't yet made known if he'll run next year, by which time he'll be 82. (Reuters)

Governing coalition

Ouyahia heads the National Democratic Rally, the No. 2 force in Algeria’s governing coalition after the National Liberation Front, FLN, whose chief last October also called for Bouteflika to run for re-election.

Despite their support, doubts about Bouteflika’s ability to continue leading the oil-and-gas-rich country, the largest in Africa, have caused others to urge the president to step down.

Last week, a dozen prominent people, including professors, writers and politicians, wrote an open letter asking him not to run again. It cited his age and frail health. Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke in 2013, has been in office since 1999. He can seek re-election one more time due to see-sawing provisions in Algeria’s constitution.

Bouteflika has not stated his intentions/ He said on March 19, the Victory Day that marks the end of Algeria’s seven-year war with France for independence, that the country “needs political diversity ... and competition for power.”

No other potential candidate has emerged as others wait to see if Bouteflika will run. By backing a new term for Bouteflika, the prime minister essentially removed himself as a candidate.

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