Algerian opposition names its candidate for presidential poll

Algeria’s frail President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, may stand for a fifth term at elections next year. (AFP)
Updated 26 January 2019

Algerian opposition names its candidate for presidential poll

  • If Bouteflika runs again he is set to win, as the opposition is split
  • The election is set for April 18. By law, would-be candidates now have until March 4 to register with the constitutional court

ALGIERS: Algeria’s main conservative party, the Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP), said on Saturday it has decided to take part in April’s presidential election.

During the night of Friday to Saturday “the consultative council decided by an overwhelming majority to take part in the presidential election and to present Dr. Abderrazak Makri as the party’s candidate,” the MSP’s head of communications Abdellah Bouadji told AFP.

Presenting itself as moderate, the MSP had supported aging incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika within a governing alliance, before going its own way in 2012. Observers say if Bouteflika runs again he is set to win, as the opposition is divided into Islamists and secular parties.

Bouteflika, 81, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since a stroke in 2013, is due to complete a fourth term in office on April 28. The election is set for April 18. By law, would-be candidates now have until March 4 to register with the constitutional court.

Despite his advanced age and poor health, some of Bouteflika’s supporters have called for him to stand again. But the president himself is yet to make his plans clear.

Ahead of the last presidential election in 2014, Bouteflika only declared his intention to run a few days ahead of the deadline.

Despite his advanced age and poor health, there have been calls from his supporters for him to stand for a fifth term.

 

Frozen politics

Uncertainty over whether Bouteflika will stand for re-election has frozen Algerian politics for months. No candidate of note has thrown their hat into the ring.

Algerian politics is notoriously opaque with the winner of every multiparty presidential election pre-selected by a shadowy elite, beginning in 1995 with victory by retired Gen. Liamine Zeroual.

For this year’s election, the membership of the kingmaking elite has changed.

Bouteflika has proved himself a wily political survivor, navigating Arab Spring-inspired riots in 2011 by promising reforms that were never enacted and by playing on fears of a repeat of Algeria’s 1991-2002 civil war.

Bouteflika’s stewardship was key to the country’s emergence from that conflict, as he introduced a civil reconciliation program that offered partial amnesty to  extremists.

Analysts said Bouteflika’s announcement of the election date will ease concerns that the vote might get postponed.

In 1991, the army cancelled elections which an Islamist party was set to win, triggering almost a decade of civil war that killed some 200,000 people.

 

Flooding kills five

Five people died after being swept away by flood waters as a cold snap in the Maghreb brought snow to several of the country’s regions, Algeria’s civil protection unit said on Saturday.

“All the victims have been retrieved over the last 48 hours after being swept away by waters in Annaba, El-Tarf, Tizi Ouzou and Tipaza,” the civil protection body said.

Salvage operations took place in more than 17 areas and around 100 people have been rescued in the last 24 hours.

A total of 33 roads remain blocked in over 10 regions because of snow, the civil protection unit said, adding “snow clearing operations are progressing.”

Elsewhere in North Africa, neighboring Tunisia’s interior ministry said on Friday two people were killed by flooding and cold weather, after heavy snowfall.


Israel strikes in Gaza after rocket attack

Updated 3 min 22 sec ago

Israel strikes in Gaza after rocket attack

  • Strikes targeted two sites belonging to Al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing
  • Late Saturday night, Palestinian militants in Gaza launched three rockets at southern Israel
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli aircraft carried out attacks in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip early Sunday, Palestinian security officials said, hours after militants in the enclave launched three rockets at the Jewish state.
The strikes targeted two sites belonging to Al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, in northern Gaza, with another series of sorties at a Qassam site west of Gaza City, Hamas officials said.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The Israeli army said “fighter jets and attack helicopters struck a number of Hamas terror targets” in Gaza, as well as “a military post belonging to the Hamas naval force in the northern Gaza Strip.”
“The IDF (Israel Defense Force) holds the Hamas terror organization responsible for events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it,” the army said in a statement.
“Hamas will bear the consequences for actions against Israeli civilians.”
Late Saturday night, Palestinian militants in Gaza launched three rockets at southern Israel.
All three projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the army said, amending an earlier statement according to which two of the three rockets were shot down over southern Israel.
Medics had treated three people in the southern Israeli town of Sderot who suffered minor injuries while seeking shelter as air raid sirens went off, the Magen David Adom emergency medical service said.
There were no immediate reports of material damage.
On November 29, Israeli warplanes struck Hamas positions in Gaza in response to rocket fire at the Jewish state the previous day.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, and Israel holds the Islamist movement responsible for all rocket fire coming from the territory, although it has targeted other militant groups there.
Last month, Israeli forces assassinated a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the Gaza Strip, sparking a two-day flare-up which killed 36 Palestinians.
Islamic Jihad fired around 450 rockets at Israel, many of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
Israel has fought three wars with Hamas and allied armed groups in Gaza since 2008.