CAIRO -- Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ended months of speculation about his political future by announcing Saturday that he would run for a fourth term in office, Algeria’s state news agency, APS, reported.
The relatively weak Algerian opposition has often said that the 76-year-old, who suffered a stroke last year, lacks the physical abilities to prolong his 15-year rule of country.
However, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal denied that Bouteflika’s health is an issue when he confirmed the president’s candidacy in the election scheduled for April 17.
“President Bouteflika is healthy and he has the required intellectual capacities and vision to fulfill his duties,” Sellal said Saturday at a news conference at the African Conference on Green Economy in the western Algerian city of Oran.
According to Sellal, Bouteflika’s nomination comes “at the insistence of the people and after some deep reflection.”
A Washington ally, Bouteflika first came to power as head of the ruling National Liberation Front in 1999.
Many Algerians regard him as the leader who ended the country’s decade of civil war against Islamists in the 1990s, in which tens of thousands of people were killed.
He was reelected in 2004 before fostering a constitutional amendment that allowed him to run in the 2009 and 2014 polls.
Since suffering the stroke, Bouteflika has mostly been out of public sight, making only few appearances during foreign diplomats’ visits to Algiers, the captial.
Nonetheless, there is no apparent competition in the upcoming election, especially with the National Liberation Front’s strong backing among unions and civil society organizations.
Algerian elections law requires presidential nominees to obtain no fewer than 600 signatures from members of the parliament and local councils or the signatures of 60,000 voters to contend for the presidency.
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Hassan is a special correspondent.