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.
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.