Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat—The first person to register as a candidate in Algeria’s forthcoming presidential elections, former finance minister Ali Benouari, has ruled out a potential fourth term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, citing the president’s deteriorating health.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Benouari said: “The Liberation Revolution [1954–1962] generation to which Mr. Bouteflika belongs has ended,” reiterating his doubt that the current president intended to remain in power.
Bouteflika signed a decree on Saturday, January 18, ordering presidential elections for April 17 after returning from Paris where he was receiving a routine medical check-up. The president suffered a mini-stroke last year and has been making frequent trips to Paris to visit his doctors.
The president, who has been in office since 1999, has yet to announce whether he will seek a fourth term.
“It is impossible for Bouteflika to run for the presidency. His health would not allow him to,” Benouari said, adding that the current “regime will not risk having Bouteflika as the president for five more years when everybody knows he is ill.”
And contrary to popular opinion in the North African country, Benouari claimed: “Bouteflika will not have a say regarding who will succeed him in power.” However, he admitted the presence of a “network of allegiances shaped in his [Bouteflika’s] era and represented by businessmen.”
“Since independence, the country has been run through consensus between the regime’s military and political wings—a thing no longer possible today,” he said.
By Monday, more than 27 people had already started the nomination process to enter themselves in the presidential race, according to the Algeria Focus online news outlet. They include former Prime Minister Ali Benflis and former intelligence services head Yasmina Khadra.
Speaking of his own prospects during the presidential campaign, Benouari said: “I am not worried by anybody who nominates themselves, unless they have more influential ideas, programs and suggestions.”
The Switzerland-based financial expert also warned that the “mad subsidies policy,” the president had used to “buy social peace” would lead to the country facing a “serious crisis similar to that of 1986,” when a significant drop in oil prices pushed the OPEC producer into a serious economic crisis that sparked mass protests across the country.