Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat—Algerian presidential candidate Abdelaziz Belaid, head of the Front El Moustakbal, says he has no intention of backing out from the forthcoming elections race against sitting president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, scheduled for April 17.
Dozens of Algerian presidential candidates have reportedly dropped out of the presidential race after Bouteflika officially submitted his nomination earlier this month. The sitting president is seeking an unprecedented fourth term in office, with many questioning his health after he suffered a mini-stroke in 2013.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Belaid predicted that “Bouteflika and I will compete in the presidential election runoff, and I will beat him.”
“Everyone is looking to April 17 from a personal standpoint, but I prefer to be at the heart of the battle. Anyone who thinks that the results of the election are known and that Bouteflika will win, it is better that they retire from the race,” he said in an implicit reference to former Prime Minister Ahmed Benbitour and retired Gen. Mohand Tahar Yala, who both withdrew their candidacies this month.
“In the end, everybody—those in power and those in the opposition—must shoulder their responsibilities. We are prepared to shoulder our responsibilities and condemn any election fraud, if this happens, and we will ask the Algerian people to shoulder their responsibilities in this regard as well,” he added.
Belaid’s comments came as thousands of Algerian opposition supporters rallied in the capital on Saturday against Bouteflika’s attempts to secure a historic fourth term in office. Bouteflika scrapped a constitutional article limiting the presidency to two terms in office in 2008.
The opposition rally in Algiers called for a boycott of April’s elections, with many in the country fearing that the ailing president would seek to secure another term in office through widespread election fraud. Both Benbitour and Yalsa have cited fears of election fraud in their announcement of their withdrawal from the election race.
“I have noticed signs of voter fraud in favor of one of the candidates and I will enter the fray with all my strength to put a stop to this,” said Belaid.
“Members of my party will be deployed at all voter stations to monitor the voting process,” he added.