News / Middle East

Ailing Algerian President Expected to Win Election

FILE - Algeria's President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika.
FILE - Algeria's President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika.
VOA News
Algerians cast ballots Thursday in a presidential election that incumbent President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika is widely expected to win.

The 77-year-old leader is seeking his fourth term in office, although he has made few public appearance since suffering a stroke last year.

Five opposition leaders are challenging Bouteflika, who has the backing of the ruling National Liberation Front party.

In a VOA interview, Peter Pham, the director of the Atlantic Council Africa Center, says the election is unlikely to spark any changes in Algeria.

"We're not talking about a democratic process.  We are talking about the re-election, in quotes, of a boycotted poll of a man who has been president for nearly two decades and who is too sick to even campaign for himself.  So, expecting democratic transformation out of this is, at best, wishful thinking," said Pham.

In February, three Algerian opposition parties called for a boycott of the elections after the government announced Bouteflika would seek another five-year term.

Bouteflika took power in 1999, at the tail end of a civil war that pitted Islamist extremists against the military-backed government.  In 2008, he amended the constitution to allow for the indefinite re-election of sitting presidents.

The president promised peace and national reconciliation, and hopes were high at the start of his tenure.

However, unemployment is now high in the North African nation, especially among youth.  And despite the country's vast oil and gas resources, much of the population remains poor.

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