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On February 10, Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he was running for his fifth term as President of Algeria. However, the 81-year-old has caused a stir amongst the populace with his announcement. According to Bloomberg, in 2013, the President suffered a stroke, causing him to be confined to a wheelchair.
Both his age and his physical capabilities have caused concern amongst voters.“Mr. Bouteflika’s last meeting with a senior foreign official was during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in September. An earlier meeting with her had been cancelled,” reports BBC News. Events such as these have caused some to doubt Bouteflika’s ability to be an effective leader. In the election for his fourth term, a picture went viral of him casting a ballot from a wheelchair. Some believe that his re-election will only delay an inevitable, and potentially controversial, succession.
Bouteflika has served as Algeria’s President since 1999. A former veteran who served in the Algerian War, which resulted in the country’s independence from France, Bouteflika has succeeded in improving Algeria’s oil-based economy.
Nonetheless, Algerian unemployment rates remain high, causing citizens to leave the country at a high rate in search of better living conditions. A large portion of this unemployment rate affects Algeria’s young population. PM News Nigeria reports that nearly 70 percent of the North African nation’s population is under the age of 30, resulting in Bouteflika’s desire to connect with Algeria’s young population.
Since April 15, 1999, when Bouteflika was first elected as President, he has sought to keep peace within the formerly war-torn nation. During his rule in 2011, a state of emergency was lifted after 15,000 Islamic insurgents were pacified. However, in that same year, food riots began as the Arab Spring came into full swing, reports Ya Libnan. Despite the protests and concerns over his physical state, Bouteflika was re-elected for a fourth term on April 17, 2014.
In spite his age and physical abilities, Bouteflika has remained an effective leader, with many parties choosing to support his candidacy due to the consistency he brings to the nation.
As a leader for nearly 2 decades, Bouteflika has forged relationships with many organizations and other leaders, such as those in the Algerian military. While some cite the end of a political era, evident in the resignation of the National Liberation Front’s secretary-general in November, others are confident in Bouteflika’s ability to lead the country to success.
According to Bloomberg, Lamine Boudhae, a political analyst and professor at Algeria’s Setif University stated, “I expect Bouteflika will win, without doubt… It’s a closed election now. The other candidates have no chance.”