Speculation over a possible fifth term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is running high in Algeria, where a spokesman for Democratic National Rally (RND) party – a key coalition member of the country’s presidential alliance – said Wednesday that he’ll announce a decision next week.
Chihab Seddik, speaking with Algerian outlet TSA, said Bouteflika will make his decision public during the first week in February, ahead of a February 9 rally to kick off the campaign at the La Coupole sports arena in Algiers. The North African nation holds presidential elections in April.
At the same time, Sky News on Wednesday also reported the FLN leadership has committed to Bouteflika’s candidacy. That follows comments from the head of Bouteflika’s own National Liberation Front party on Saturday that there’s no question the 81-year-old will run again.
The ailing president had a stroke in 2013 and is rarely seen in public, and is now one of Africa’s oldest leaders. He has been in office since 1999 and is the country’s longest running president since independence in 1962.
Two weeks ago, the reclusive Bouteflika was reportedly treated at a hospital in Grenoble, France, where his medical team has long practiced. That sparked a new round of concern over his health, but Seddik downplayed those concerns.
“We all know that the state of health of President Bouteflika is not the same as in previous elections,” he told TSA. “But since the 2014 election, we have not noticed that his illness was an obstacle to fulfilling his constitutional prerogatives.”
Algeria’s Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP), a moderate Islamist party that once backed the coalition, has announced its own candidate, Abderrazak Makri, will run in April. Candidates have until early March to file for eligibility.
Image: Bouteflika campaign file