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.


Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

Updated 25 January 2020

Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

  • President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats
  • The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis met Iraq’s president on Saturday and the two agreed that the country’s sovereignty must be respected, following attacks on Iraqi territory this month by the United States and Iran.
President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.
The talks “focused on the challenges the country currently faces and on the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process, encouraging the path of dialogue and the search for suitable solutions in favor of citizens and with respect for national sovereignty,” a Vatican statement said.
On Jan. 8, Iranian forces fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing US troops in retaliation for Washington’s killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike a Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution ordering the 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq to leave the country.
Soon after the Iranian attack, Francis urged the United States and Iran to avoid escalation and pursue “dialogue and self-restraint” to avert a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The pope discussed the Middle East with US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.
The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year.
The Vatican said the pope and Salih also discussed “the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country.”
The Christian presence in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East has been depleted by wars and conflicts.
Iraq’s several hundred thousand Christians suffered particular hardships when Daesh controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered.