President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s frail 81-year-old president who has been in power since 1999, will stand for a fifth consecutive term, the state news agency APS reported him to have said on Sunday.
The news puts an end to uncertainty surrounding his state of health and whether he will seek re-election in the April 18 presidential election. Observers believe Bouteflika will win again despite rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair in 2013, as the Algerian opposition remains weak and fragmented.
APS said Bouteflika plans to amend the constitution if re-elected. The news agency, however, did not say which specific amendments he would seek.
Reuters, citing a source familiar with the matter, reports that if Bouteflika wins, he would likely propose the creation of the post of vice-president to help him govern the country. Names cited by Algerian media as a possible future vice-president include former U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi and Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, who was touted, in some quarters, to become the next president if Bouteflika decides not to run.
Bouteflika is very popular with many Algerians, who credit him with putting an end to a longstanding war in the energy-rich North African country by offering amnesty to former Islamist fighters. His ruling FLN party has announced him as its official presidential candidate and several political parties, trade unions and business organisations have promised to back his re-election bid.