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Algeria’s President Bouteflika has declared he will run for a 5th term

Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has said Bouteflika’s health is not “an obstacle” to performing presidential duties.

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Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seen while voting at a polling station in the capital Algiers. - AFP

Ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared he will seek a fifth term in April elections in a message published by state media Sunday, after he was endorsed by his party and the ruling coalition.

The 81-year-old head of state uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

“Of course, I am no longer the same physical force as before — something that I have never hidden from the people,” said Bouteflika, according to the APS news agency, as he apparently broke his silence on his intentions for the April 18 poll.

“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 reportedly added.

Known for wearing a three-piece suit even in the stifling heat, Bouteflika gained respect from many for his role in ending Algeria’s decade-long civil war, which official figures say killed nearly 200,000 people.

He took advantage of the rise of the oil prices between 2004 and 2014 to launch vast infrastructure programmes and pull Algeria out of debt.

But the country’s hydrocarbon-dependent economy was hit hard by a drop in crude prices during the president’s fourth term, and now nearly a third of Algerians under 25 are unemployed.

Bouteflika has also faced criticism from rights groups and opponents who accuse him of being authoritarian.

  • ‘Irresponsible’ candidacy –
    His main opponent, former prime minister Ali Benflis, has not yet said if he will run in the election but his party — the Avant-Garde des Libertes or Avant Garde of Freedom — on Sunday rejected Bouteflika’s candidature.

“This irresponsible decision is capable of pushing our country further into political, economic and social crisis,” it said in a statement received by AFP.

Bouteflika, it said, was a “candidate uncapable of exercising the role of president”.

If re-elected, he would set up an “inclusive national conference” to address “political, economic and social” issues and “propose an enrichment of the constitution”, APS reported.

This conference would be mandated to establish “a consensus on reforms and changes” in Algeria, the president’s message said, but added that he would be the one to act on conclusions.

“A stronger presence of young people” inside political institutions, economic reform and a scaling back of bureaucratic red tape would be among the topics to be discussed at the conference.

Former prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal — who ran the incumbent’s successful presidential bids in 2004, 2009 and 2014 — has once again been named campaign manager.

The president has come up with “a strong and new plan” involving economic and political reforms to enact for the benefit of Algerians, Sellal told private TV network Ennahar.

The country’s four-party ruling coalition — which includes the president’s National Liberation Front (FLN) — backed Bouteflika earlier this month.

The FLN designated the president as its candidate on Saturday, in an address by party coordinator Mouad Bouchareb to thousands of people in the capital Algiers.

Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has said Bouteflika’s health is not “an obstacle” to performing presidential duties.

His continued backing by the establishment makes him a firm favourite.

Retired general Ali Ghediri, 64, was the first to announce his candidacy after the presidency set the election date.

Algeria’s main Islamist party, the Movement for the Society of Peace, will also take part, backing its candidate Abderrazak Makri.

It has said Bouteflika would be unable to handle the demands of another term in office because of his poor health.

The country’s oldest opposition party, the Front of Socialist Forces, announced last month it would not field a candidate and called for an “active, intensive and peaceful boycott”.

In early 2016, he dissolved the all-powerful DRS intelligence agency after dismissing its leader General Mohamed Mediene, known as “Toufik”, who had clung to the post for a quarter of a century.

Presidential candidates have until March 3 at midnight (2300 GMT) to submit their applications.

On Sunday Bouteflika appointed one of his advisers — 70-year-old former justice minister and judge Tayeb Belaiz — to head Algeria’s 12-member constitutional council responsible for validating presidential candidates, APS said.

For the last presidential election in 2014, Bouteflika had only declared his intention to run a few days ahead of the deadline.

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Egypt will always support Haftar’s army forces -Sisi

According to Sisi, Egypt is supporting “the legitimacy of Libya represented in the country’s House of Representatives.”

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Egypt will always support Haftar’s army forces -Sisi | News Central TV
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said yesterday, that Egypt will always support the Libyan troops loyal to the General Khalifa Haftar.

Following his meeting with the Libyan parliament speaker Aqilah Saleh in Cairo the Egyptian capital, Sisi said, “Egypt’s position on supporting the Libyan National Army in its campaign to eliminate terrorist groups across Libya will never change.”

Saleh is currently on an indefinite visit to Cairo where he is holding meetings with Egyptian officials.

Sisi noted that his country was supporting what he described as “the legitimacy of Libya represented in the country’s House of Representatives,” stressing that the will of Libyans “must be respected.”

During a meeting in Tunisia on Wednesday, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia called for “an immediate ceasefire,” adding that there was “no military solution to the crisis in Libya.”

In April, Haftar forces launched a military campaign to capture Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar’s campaign has, thus far, failed to achieve its primary objective, even after several weeks of fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli. Nevertheless, Haftar’s forces remain deployed in several areas around the capital.

Libya has witnessed serious political unrest since 2011 when long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising after four decades in power.

Two rival seats of power have since emerged in the country, the Tripoli-based GNA, which enjoys UN recognition, and the other one on the eastern part of the country, which is affiliated to Haftar.

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North Africa

Sudan: Omar al-Bashir to face trial over corruption allegations

Last month, Sudan’s public prosecutor ordered the questioning of Bashir over money-laundering and “financing terrorism”.

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Omar al Bashir to face trial over corruption allegations | News Central TV
Ousted Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudan’s public prosecutor has charged ousted president Omar al-Bashir of corruption, the official SUNA news agency said on Thursday.

The announcement came more than two month after the military ousted Bashir on April 11 following months of nationwide protests against his 30-year iron-fisted rule.

“The public prosecutor announces the completion of all investigations in the case brought against the deposed president Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir by anti-corruption prosecutors,” SUNA said.

An unnamed official was quoted by the agency as saying that Bashir is facing charges including “possessing foreign funds, acquiring suspected and illegal wealth and ordering (the state of) emergency”.

In April, Sudan’s army ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said that more than 113 million dollars worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence.

He said a team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros ($7.8 million), $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds ($105 million) during a search at Bashir’s home. 

Bashir swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989. 

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption under his rule ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Last month, Sudan’s public prosecutor ordered the questioning of Bashir over money-laundering and “financing terrorism”.

In an effort to quell protests that erupted against his rule in December, Bashir had imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22.

In May the prosecutor general said that Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during the anti-regime demonstrations that led to the end of his rule.

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Algeria detains second ex-Prime Minister in anti-corruption probe

Abdelmalek Sellal served as Bouteflika’s campaign manager, overseeing the president’s past three successful re-election bids.

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Algeria detains second ex-Prime Minister in graft probe | News Central TV
Algerian ex-Prime Minister, Abdelmalek Sellal. (Photo by Farouk Batiche / AFP)

Algeria’s former Prime Minister, Abdelmalek Sellal was remanded in custody Thursday after appearing before a judge as part of an anti-corruption investigation, state media reported.

The supreme court decision against the ally of ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika comes a day after another former premier, Ahmed Ouyahia, was also remanded in custody.

Related: Algeria: Bouteflika’s brother, 2 ex-spy bosses arrested

Algeria detains second ex-Prime Minister in corruption probe
A Protester is pushed back by policemen as Algeria’s former prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal is driven to custody at the El Harrach prison in the suburbs of the capital Algiers, on June 13, 2019. -(Photo by – / AFP)

The two politicians are among numerous high-profile figures to be drawn into graft probes since Bouteflika was forced to step down in April following weeks of mass protests.

Sellal served as Bouteflika’s campaign manager, overseeing the president’s past three successful re-election bids. 

He was sacked in March amid mounting public opposition to an attempt to place Bouteflika on the ballot again despite the veteran president’s ailing health.

Related: Algeria finance minister questioned in fraud probe -state TV

On Thursday, private channel, El Bilad broadcast footage of crowds waiting for Sellal’s arrival outside El Harrach prison, in an eastern suburb of the capital, Algiers.

Both Sellal and Ouyahia are being held over cases relating to the misappropriation of public funds, abuse of office and granting undue privileges, according to the official APS news agency.

A former public works minister, Abdelghani Zaalane, also appeared before a supreme court judge on Wednesday and was released under judicial supervision, state media reported.

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