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Ex-Parliamentarian Calls Algerian President’s Stand as Independent Candidate Dangerous

Algeria's opposition parties have sharply condemned President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to seek a third term, saying it undermines the country's young democracy. President Bouteflika's announcement to supporters that he would seek a third term has drawn wide condemnation from the opposition. Many Algerians expect Mr. Bouteflika to win the April 9 general election after two of his main challengers decided to boycott the poll. They pulled out of the race in November after parliament passed a constitutional amendment lifting the two-term presidential limit. Former Algerian lawmaker Anouar Hadam tells reporter Peter Clottey that Bouteflika's move is dangerous to Algeria's political system.

"I don't believe that the system in Algeria is ready to have really a political system that accepts multiparty and accepts a multiparty election. Concerning President Bouteflika's announcement today for his third term, the way he announced it is troubling. There are two things we have to understand here from his announcement to present himself for the third term as an independent candidate," Hadam pointed out.

He said President Bouteflika's move undermines the country's young democracy.

"The move shows what we in the opposition have been talking about for a long time, that there is no credibility whatsoever. For all the parties that are so-called official parties who have been dealing with this regime were issued from the military coup in 1992. So after having been the candidate for the past 10 years of three of the so-called major parties, they all put aside their own political party programs. And they supported the president's program. But now he is running on his own, and that shows that the so-called official parties have now lost credibility," he said.

Hadam described as unfortunate remarks by President Bouteflika that the upcoming election would be free and fair.

"Well if you eliminate all of your opponents what else? And the first is the party of majority, I was elected into parliament in 1991 before the military made a coup d'état. Yes,, Bouteflika was not part of it, and when he came in 1999, myself and other people supported him in order for him to achieve national reconciliation. Many of those have been achieved, but to have a stable system, I'm not sure he is the right person," Hadam pointed out.

He said the president has so far failed to stabilize the country.

"National reconciliation should have led to stabilization and towards going back to the normal situation. That is, the people are entitled to choose for a leader of their choice," he said.

Hadam said Algerians have demonstrated their political maturity during the 1990 local election, which was described by many as a free and fair election.

"We have to understand that the people in Africa have reached a certain maturity. Like for instance in Algeria, we were able to conduct free and fair elections back in June, 1990. And really, it was in a peaceful manner, and yes, the majority party, the Islamic Party for Salvation, won the election because Algerians are Muslims. But the problem is that the minority who are holding the power and holding the institution of the state by force. Those are not yet ready to accept the free choice of our people," Hadam noted.

He said it is paramount that Algerians choose who leads them in a democracy.

"I think it is the people that have the right to choose really who the right man is at the right time. This thinking that we could have a one man show political system. This has hurt Africa a lot," he said.

President Bouteflika said he would stand as an independent candidate in the upcoming general election to pursue his national reconciliation policy, as well as fight terrorism while leaving the door open to those who would rescind their decision not to commit terrorism. He also promised to spend 150 billion dollars on development and create three million jobs over the next five years.

Mr. Bouteflika's supporters claim the president deserves the continued trust of the people for having put Algeria back on the path to stability after what most people described as an undeclared civil war that raged through most of the 1990s and led to a loss of lives and property. However, lack of interest towards politics is widespread, and many Algerian citizens are saying the country will still be ruled by the same tight-knit political elite, whatever the outcome of the polls.