Ruling party picks Bouteflika as presidential candidate

ALGIERS: Algeria’s ruling party FLN has picked President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as its candidate for the April 18 presidential election, party leader Moad Bouchareb said on Saturday. Bouteflika, 81, who has been in office since 1999 but has been seen in public only rarely since suffering a stroke in 2013 that confined him to a wheelchair, is likely to win a fifth term as the Algerian opposition remains weak and fragmented. He will still need to make a formal announcement, probably in a letter that will be read on his behalf, before March 3. “We at the FLN have decided to pick Bouteflika as our candidate for the April presidential election. Let’s be ready for the campaign,” Bouchareb told about 2,000 supporters at a sports stadium in Algiers.

“We have chosen him because we need continuity and stability,” he added. Bouteflika’s poor health had led to months of uncertainty about whether he would stand for election again. His re-election would offer short-term stability for the elites of the FLN, the army and business tycoons, and postpone a potentially controversial succession. Bouteflika is part of a thinning elite of the veterans who won independence from France in the 1954-62 war and have run Algeria ever since. Bouteflika remains popular with many Algerians, who credit him with ending the country’s long civil war by offering former militants amnesty. Supporters say his mind remains sharp, even though he needs a microphone to speak. — Reuters