Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for fifth term

President Bouteflika will run for a fifth term amid concern about a political transition following the 81-year-old's rule. For some he is respected for ending the country's civil war. For others he is an autocrat.

Algeria's ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced on Sunday he will seek a fifth term in April 18 elections, amid concern over the 81-year-old's health.

Bouteflika has used a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in 2013 that left him with difficulty speaking and moving. He is rarely seen in public.

Read more: Algeria the new 'cradle of civilization?'

"Of course, I am no longer the same physical force as before — something that I have never hidden from the people," the state news agency APS reported him as saying.

"But the unwavering desire to serve... has never left me and it allows me to transcend the constraints linked to health troubles which everyone may one day face," the president added.

The announcement came after the ruling National Liberation Front on Saturday declared Bouteflika to be their presidential candidate for another five-year term.

Trouble looming on horizon

Bouteflika is respected in Algeria for ending the North African country's decade-long civil war between Islamic insurgents and the military which killed nearly 200,000 people.

He was the only North African leader to survive the Arab Spring upheaval without facing protests, in part due to citizens' concerns over renewed instability.

He subdued potential unrest through promises of reform and wage increases financed by the country's oil and gas revenues.

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But in recent years the country's finances have been weakened by low oil prices, forcing cuts in state subsidies.

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Algeria's Western allies are concerned about an unstable transfer of power in a country on Europe's doorstep. The country faces al-Qaida linked militants in the Sahel, turbulence in neighboring Libya and is a potential gateway for migrants seeking to reach Europe.  

Read more: Bundestag classifies Maghreb states as 'safe' for refugee returns

The opposition has questioned the president's health and ability to hold office. Rights groups and the opposition also accuse him of being authoritarian.

The Front of Socialist Forces, the country's oldest opposition party, called last month for an "active, intensive and peaceful boycott" of the vote and declared it would not field a candidate.

Ten African presidents who died in office

1) Michael Sata, president of Zambia (2014)

Michael Sata is the most recent African president to have died while in office. He died at the age of 77 of an undisclosed illness in the United Kingdom on October 28th, 2014. After his election in 2011, rumors about his failing health spread across Zambia. His continuous absence at major state functions raised concerns about his well-being, even though his spokesmen said he was in good health.

Ten African presidents who died in office

2) Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia (2012)

Meles Zenawi died in August of 2012 in Belgium at the age of 57 of an undisclosed infection. He led Ethiopia for a total of 21 years, as president from 1991 to 1995 and as prime minister from 1995 to 2012. He is known for introducing multi-party democracy, but also for violently suppressing the legitimate protests of the Oromia people of northern Ethiopia.

Ten African presidents who died in office

3) John Atta Mills, president of Ghana (2012)

Also in 2012, John Atta Mills, the president of Ghana, died in his home country of stroke and throat cancer at the age of 68. He won the presidential election in 2008 and was in office for only three years. As president, he instituted a number of far-reaching economic and social reforms that earned him both local and international commendations.

Ten African presidents who died in office

4) Bingu wa Mutharika, president of Malawi (2012)

Another president to die in 2012 is Bingu wa Mutharika, the president of Malawi. He suffered a heart attack in April and died two days later at the age of 78. His tenure was eight years long and he achieved broad success with his food and agricultural policies. His reputation was damaged by widespread public protests over his purchase of a $14 million (13.2 million euros) presidential jet.

Ten African presidents who died in office

5) Malam Bacai Sanha, president of Guinea-Bissau (2012)

The fourth leader to die in 2012 was Malam Bacai Sanha, the president of Guinea-Bissau. He suffered from diabetes and died in Paris after four years as president at the age of 64. Throughout his time in office, he suffered from several health complications and was continually in and out of the hospital.

Ten African presidents who died in office

6) Moammar Gadhafi, brotherly leader and guide to the revolution of Libya (2011)

A victim of assassination, Moammar Gadhafi was the self-professed Libyan leader and guide to the revolution. He was killed at the age of 69 by rebel forces in unclear circumstances in Libya, after being its leader for 42 years. He seized power from the Libyan monarchy following a bloodless military coup in 1969 but his leadership came to an end in the aftermath of the "Arab spring" revolution.

Ten African presidents who died in office

7) Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, president of Nigeria (2010)

Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the president of Nigeria, died at the age of 58 in 2011 from pericarditis in Nigeria. He had been in office for only three years. His election campaign was punctuated by the absence of the candidate on the campaign trail complete with reports of health-related complications. After his election in April 2007, Yar’Adua’s health deteriorated quickly.

Ten African presidents who died in office

8) Joao Bernardo Vieira, president of Guinea-Bissau (2009)

Joao Bernardo Vieira, the president of Guinea-Bissau, was assassinated in his own country in March 2009 at the age of 69. He was the head of state for a combined 31 years. In 1978, he became prime minister and seized power in 1980 and ruled for 19 years. He morphed into a civilian president and led for another four-year period. In 2005, Vieira won another round of presidential elections.

Ten African presidents who died in office

9) Omar Bongo, President of Gabon (2009)

Advanced intestinal cancer killed Omar Bongo in June 2009 in Barcelona, Spain, after being in office for 42 consecutive years. He died aged 72 and was one of the longest-serving rulers in history and also one of the most corrupt. Bongo collected immense private wealth while his country lived in poverty despite Gabon’s huge revenue earnings from its extensive oil deposits.

Ten African presidents who died in office

10) Lansana Conte, president of Guinea (2008)

After 24 years, Lansana Conte died of undisclosed illness at the age of 74. He battled complications from diabetes and heart-related conditions. From April 1984 until his death in December 2008, he served as the second president of the country. Despite his health issues for which he constantly sought medical treatment abroad, he won three elections.

Vague reform promises

Bouteflika promised that if re-elected, he would implement political, economic and social reforms through consensus.

"If you give me the honor of your precious trust next April, I will invite within this year all forces of the people to hold a national symposium, which will focus on reaching consensus on reforms," he said.

APS news agency also said Bouteflika wanted to amend the constitution if re-elected. It did not specify what changes these would be.

Bouteflika's top challengers are former Prime Minister Ali Benflis, retired General Ali Ghediri and the leader of a moderate Islamist party, Abderazak Makri.

Bouteflika won the 2014 election with 81 percent of the vote despite not campaigning and voting from a wheelchair.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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