ALGIERS: Algeria’s 76-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was yesterday designated his party’s candidate in the 2014 presidential election, despite having been largely unseen for months because of health woes.
Bouteflika, in power since 1999, returned home in July after nearly three months in France recovering from a mini-stroke, and presided over a cabinet meeting on September 29 for the first time this year.
Yesterday’s announcement was made by Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN), which has 208 seats in the 462-seat national assembly.
“The central committee has chosen the president of the party, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to be the FLN candidate in the next presidential election,” said a party statement issued after a meeting in the capital.
“The choice was a natural one given the positive assessment” of his three terms as Algerian head of state, FLN head Ammar Saidani said in a speech at yesterday’s meeting.
Bouteflika has not himself spoken of being a candidate in 2014.
A limit on the number of consecutive presidential terms was removed by a constitutional amendment in November 2008, allowing Bouteflika to stand for a third term in office.
On Saturday, Saidani insisted that the FLN decision to propose Bouteflika as its candidate in next year’s election was constitutional.
“The former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected four times, and he was in a wheelchair,” he said.
“Mr Bouteflika’s period of convalescence, which is coming to an end, does not legally prevent our president from seeking a fourth term in office,” Saidani said.
Several members of the FLN central committee boycotted yesterday’s meeting.
They called it illegal because of Saidani’s controversial election as chief at an August meeting in which only some 273 out of 340 members of the central committee were present.
Saidani said 288 members of the central committee attended yesterday’s meeting.
The gathering also urged Bouteflika to speedily revise the constitution to consolidate reforms announced in April 2011 to head off any spillover of Arab Spring violence.
Those reforms were seen by the opposition as timid at best.
Bouteflika is seen by many Algerians as a father figure who helped end the civil war that killed at least 150,000 people from 1992.