President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria confirmed on Sunday his intentions to run for a fifth term, one day after his National Liberation Front party said the 81-year-old will run again.
Bouteflika’s bid, announced on the Algeria Press Service state news channels, included the promise that if elected he would begin a national dialogue to establish a “political, economic and social platform” with the possibility of constitutional reforms.
The announcement ended months of speculation on whether the ailing Bouteflika could – or should – compete in elections set for April. He had a stroke in 2013 and is rarely seen in public, and is now one of Africa’s oldest leaders. He also has been in office since 1999 and is the country’s longest running president since independence in 1962.
In January, 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.
Bouteflika addressed the health issue in his statement, noting that he has never hidden from the Algerian people on matters of health and that he remains fit to lead the nation.
Among others, Bouteflika will face Ali Benflis, a former prime minister who announced his candidacy with the Talaie El Hurriyet party last week, and moderate Islamist Abderrazak Makri of Algeria’s Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP). Candidates have until early March to file for eligibility.
Image: Bouteflika file