Ailing Algerian leader eyes 4th term in office
.Bouteflika says he is hearkening to the people’s wish
Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said Saturday his ailing health does not “disqualify” his bid to run for a fourth term in polls next month.
“The difficulties linked to my health do no appear to disqualify me in your eyes or plead in favour of me giving up the heavy responsibilities which have, in part, affected my health,” he said in a message to the Algerian people on the eve of the start of campaigning, carried by national news agency APS.
Bouteflika, who is 77 and has been in office since 1999, was hospitalised in Paris last year for three months after suffering a mini-stroke.
Opponents say he is not fit to run in the April 17 presidential election, while others charge that the vote will be rigged and protests against his re-election have multiplied in the runup to the vote.
But in his message, Bouteflika insisted that he decided to stand in answer to persistent calls from the Algerian people to seek a fourth term.
“It is my duty to respond positively, because never in my life have I shied away from the call of duty,” he said.
“It would grieve me to ignore your calls and that is why I decided, so as not to disappoint you, to stand in the presidential election and turn all my energy towards achieving your wishes,” Bouteflika said.
The president is among six candidates who will start campaigning from Sunday.
Bouteflika is widely expected to win.
His key challenger Ali Benflis, a former prime minister who lost against him in the 2004 poll, has urged Algerians to vote in large numbers.
Supporters of Bouteflika, who is credited with helping to end Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s that killed 200,000 people, say he represents stability in a region shaken by Arab Spring uprisings.