Algeria's ruling FLN picks Bouteflika as presidential candidate

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Supporters of Algeria's National Liberation Front (FLN) party, gather at La Coupole arena in the capital Algiers on February 9, 2019, to call upon the current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (posters) to run for a fifth term in office. (AFP)
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Supporters of Algeria's ruling party FLN gather to show their support for Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers, Algeria February 9, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2019

Algeria's ruling FLN picks Bouteflika as presidential candidate

  • Bouteflika, 81, has been in office since 1999 but has been seen in public only rarely since suffering a stroke in 2013 that confined him to a wheelchair
  • Algeria avoided the major political upheaval seen in many other Arab states in the past decade but has experienced some protests and strikes

ALGIERS: Algeria's ruling party FLN has picked President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as its candidate for the April 18 presidential election, party leader Moad Bouchareb said on Saturday.
Bouteflika, 81, who has been in office since 1999 but has been seen in public only rarely since suffering a stroke in 2013 that confined him to a wheelchair, is likely to win a fifth term as the Algerian opposition remains weak and fragmented.
He will still need to make a formal announcement, probably in a letter that will be read on his behalf, before March 3.
"We at the FLN we have decided to pick Bouteflika as our candidate for the April presidential election. Let's be ready for the campaign," Bouchareb told about 2,000 supporters at a sports stadium in Algiers.
"We have chosen him because we need continuity and stability," he added.
Bouteflika's poor health had led to months of uncertainty about whether he would stand for election again.
His re-election would offer short-term stability for the elites of the FLN, the army and business tycoons, and postpone a potentially controversial succession.
But the president will need to find a way to connect with the North African country's young population, almost 70 percent of which is aged under 30.
The OPEC oil producer is a key gas supplier to Europe and a US ally in the fight against terror in the Sahel region.
Bouteflika is part of a thinning elite of the veterans who won independence from France in the 1954-62 war and have run Algeria ever since.
In December, flu meant he was unable to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Algiers for a two-day visit.
His last meeting with a senior foreign official was during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sept. 17. An earlier meeting with Merkel and a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte were both cancelled.
Algeria avoided the major political upheaval seen in many other Arab states in the past decade but has experienced some protests and strikes. Unemployment remains high, especially among young people, many of whom have left the country to seek better wages and living conditions.
The economy has improved over the past year as oil and gas revenues have picked up, allowing authorities to ease austerity measures imposed when they halved between 2014 and 2017.
Oil and gas earnings account for 60 percent of the budget and 94 percent of export revenues. But Algeria has around $80 billion of reserves and almost no foreign debts.
Bouteflika remains popular with many Algerians, who credit him with ending the country's long civil war by offering former extremist fighters amnesty.
Supporters say his mind remains sharp, even though he needs a microphone to speak. The opposition says he is not fit to run again and several candidates, including a retired general, have said they will challenge Bouteflika.
The government has said it wants to diversify the economy away from oil and gas, but there has been resistance from those within the ruling elite to opening up to foreign investment.
That has left the economy dominated by the state and firms run by business tycoons.


Tel Aviv beaches fall foul in Israel’s passion for plastic

Updated 41 min 4 sec ago

Tel Aviv beaches fall foul in Israel’s passion for plastic

  • Despite the activities of environmental groups, Israel remains hooked on plastic

TEL AVIV: In the early morning, when the only sound on Tel Aviv beach is the waves, Yosef Salman and his team pick up plastic debris left by bathers or cast up by the sea.
Working in heat and humidity with large rakes, they scoop plastic cups, cigarette ends, empty sunscreen tubes and soiled babies’ nappies.
Also present, but impossible to separate from the sand, are microplastics, tiny particles of plastic debris that have been broken down by sun and salt.
“When it rains... you can see tons of plastic in the sand,” says Ariel Shay, of the Plastic Free Israel movement, which organizes volunteer beach cleanups.
Despite the activities of environmental groups, Israel remains hooked on plastic.
A June report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) ranked Tel Aviv’s coastline as the third most polluted by plastic waste in the Mediterranean, behind Barcelona and southern Turkey.
Valencia, Alexandria, Algiers and Marseille were listed in fourth to seventh places.
With around four million inhabitants, Tel Aviv is Israel’s most populous metropolitan area.
“Every time I go to the beach now, I spend my time cleaning — it’s horrible!” complains Shani Zylbersztejn, with an eye on her nine-month-old daughter, who plays with a plastic fork freshly dug from the sand.
In the upper-crust town of Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv, Limor Gorelik, of the environmental protection NGO Zalul, patrols the sands, offering beachgoers bamboo cups and reusable bags in a bid to wean them from single-use plastics.
Gorelik blames Israel’s passion for plastic on a lack of education and on deeply ingrained habits, such as using disposable tableware for family picnics.
Observant Jews who want a beachfront lunch on Saturdays are forbidden from washing the dishes afterwards, because their faith bans them from working on the Sabbath.
“They’re not permitted to wash dishes so they use disposable plastic,” Gorelik says.
Even plastic waste dumped in the bins that dot the beaches can end up in the sea, carried by the wind or by birds which rip open garbage bags in search of food.
Independent researcher Galia Pasternak has analyzed coastal plastic pollution in Israel.
According to her data, 60 percent of the waste on the beach comes from the bathers themselves.
Some is also borne by currents from Gaza and Egypt in the south or from Lebanon further north.
In 2005, Israel’s environmental protection ministry launched a program offering local councils incentives for proven results in cleaning their beaches.
Subject to regular inspection, councils that meet requirements get funding, while failing authorities face cuts or even court, says Ran Amir, head of the environment ministry’s marine division.

Amir cites the case of the popular Palmahim beach, south of Tel Aviv.
Palmahim municipal council was taken to court and fined over the state of the beach — which has since become “one of the cleanest beaches in Israel today,” he says.
The ministry’s strategy in recent years has also included public service messages on radio and online, along with fines, recycling facilities and education, according to Amir.
“It think it has partially worked,” says Pasternak, who helped set up some of those programs.
Zalul’s Gorelik, however, says Israel is still trailing behind other countries.
She says charges introduced in supermarkets in 2017 for plastic bags — previously given away free — are too low, at just 0.10 Israeli shekels (0.02 euros/ $0.03) each.
“It’s not enough,” Gorelik says, adding that even this modest measure does not apply to small grocery stores.
She points to new European Union restrictions on single-use plastics.
“Europeans are the leaders on the subject,” she says.
“Here, we are very far away.”