Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat—Former Algerian Prime Minister Ali Benflis is considering announcing his candidacy in the upcoming Algerian presidential elections, set for April 2014, say sources close to the politician, but is hesitant after the nomination of incumbent president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for another term by the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN).
Although Benflis considers “the game to be over if the president was nominated,” according to sources close to the politician, Bouteflika himself has not yet indicated if he intends to seek a fourth presidential term.
A political activist close to Benflis told Asharq Al-Awsat that Benflis, Algeria’s prime minister between 2000-2003, “was to make an official announcement regarding his participation in elections on November 1. However, he backtracked after convincing himself that the situation was not yet favorable.”
The source, a member of the Algerian parliament and the FLN, spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, and said “Benflis is observing the moves of the president through state television. He understands, from the activities [Bouteflika] has undertaken since he returned from his treatment abroad in France in mid-July, that the president and those around him, especially his brother and advisor Said Bouteflika, want to send a message to the effect that he is recovering and determined to run for a fourth term.”
Despite his return from hospital treatment in France in July, speculation persists about the state of the 76-year-old president’s health, and whether he will be able to stand the strain of an election campaign.
In a possible attempt to put a dampener on this speculation, President Bouteflika has been making continual appearances over the past 2 months. He has received Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Army Chief of Staff General Mohamed Ammari “to discuss the situation of the country.”
Moreover, he has also received foreign diplomats, the latest being the former Tunisian Foreign Minister and head of Tunisian Nida Tounis party, Beji Caid El-Sebsi, on Sunday.
Over the same period, Bouteflika also met with the leader of the Tunisian Ennahda party, Rachid Ghannouchi, suggesting to analysts that Bouteflika is attempting to play an intermediary role to help solve the political process in Tunisia.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, also visited Bouteflika last week. State television broadcast footage of the Algerian diplomatic veteran in talks with the president.
Many observers view the signals emitted by Bouteflika as a sure signs of his intention to run for a fourth term.
Benflis managed Bouteflika’s presidential campaign in 1999. He was then appointed his chief of staff, and later appointed prime minister.
However, Benflis subsequently broke with the president, running against him in 2004. Ironically, Bouteflika had previously said in the year 2000: “I feel reassured of the situation in the country when Benflis is there, and I am abroad.”