Algeria’s 2019 Presidential Elections Clouded by Bouteflika’s Unclear Prospects

Algeria’s 2019 Presidential Elections Clouded by Bouteflika’s Unclear Prospects

Sunday, 12 August, 2018 - 09:30
Algeiran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika during a swearing-in ceremony in Algiers April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo
Algeria- Asharq Al Awsat
Algeria’s media and the country’s political sphere, whether pro-government or opposition, have lately been focused on the upcoming 2019 presidential elections and the current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's future in power.

Bouteflika stepping down from rule is a bet placed on his health condition taking an irretraceable course—the Tunisian president has a history of brain strokes that at times cost him control over most of his senses and placed him on a wheelchair.

Since then, the Algerian president has not been directly involved in public engagements and has missed his very own presidential campaign in 2014. Former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Salal took charge as Bouteflika’s campaign director.

It is worth noting that when performing the national oath, Bouteflika failed to read a full paragraph, leaving the impression that he would have great difficulty in fulfilling responsibilities during his fourth mandate.

And since his re-election Bouteflika, 80, has appeared rarely in public and usually only in state news images with visiting dignitaries, at times raising serious doubts on whether he will be able to finish his term.

But despite Bouteflika's shortcoming, four major parties in the “pro-government bloc” insist that the current president serves best the natural course of the country.

They argue that no one can lead Algeria in its coming stage but Bouteflika. The bloc comprises parties like National Liberation Front, headed by Bouteflika himself and the National Rally for Democracy, led by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia.

“I do not think the president will disappoint citizens who called on him to end the nationwide construction, a process which he started in 1999. He will once again come through for Algeria,” National Liberation Front FLN secretary-general Djamel Ould Abbes told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Taking into consideration Bouteflika suffering painful health conditions, loyalists perceive his stay in power as a sacrifice on his behalf for both the sake of the country and settling “difficult security and economic conditions facing Algeria.”

“You asked me to carry on with the march even though you noticed that I was no longer able to lead, and I decided to bow before your wishes and come forth for Algeria, the country for which I sacrificed my youth,” Bouteflika had said in his speech on the eve of 2014 presidential elections.

If Bouteflika does not opt for a fifth stay in office, Algerian third-party observers expect that the same bloc would remain in power. The next coming president will likely be chosen from a score of candidates running for the election, such as PM Ahmed Ouyahia, former PM Abdelmalek Sellal and former Energy Minister Chakib Khelil.

Rumors spun around the Vice Minister of Defense Ahmed Gaid Salah becoming the head the Algerian government.

Salah has purportedly acknowledged a desire to replace Bouteflika.

He told his close associates, “It was done by Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, why not me ?!"

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