ALGIERS: Final campaign rallies were held for Algeria’s presidential election yesterday after the incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his only real rival Ali Benflis waged a war of words.
The 77-year-old Bouteflika, despite ailing health and not even appearing in person on the campaign trail, remains favourite to win a fourth term in Thursday’s poll in the North African nation. Presidential aides wound up the campaign on his behalf in Cherage, southwest of the capital, where they praised the “miracle” of Bouteflika taking Algeria “from darkness into light”.
With the campaign officially closing, the 69-year-old Benflis held his last rally later the same day in Rouiba in the east of the country. The aim of Bouteflika’s accusations against him were “to cover up the inability of the president candidate to mobilise the population,” he said in a statement, quoted by national news agency APS.
Late on Saturday, Bouteflika made a rare television appearance — only his second since campaigning began — to accuse the man who was once his prime minister of fomenting violence. He accused Benflis of “terrorism via the television”, in reference to warnings the former premier made against electoral fraud.
“When a candidate threatens walis (governors) and the authorities to beware for our families and children in case of (election) fraud, what does that mean?” Bouteflika asked. Benflis had said in televised remarks that “fraud is ‘haram’,” or forbidden. “Fraud and usage of fraud is haram. I am speaking to (governors): you have family, think about protecting them,” Benflis said.
He is seeking to reverse Bouteflika’s fortunes following 10 years in the political wilderness, after running against and losing heavily to his former ally in the 2004 election.