- Title: FILE: Profile of Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ahead of election
- Date: 13th April 2014
- Summary: ALGIERS, ALGERIA (FILE - APRIL 12, 1999) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) LARGE CROWD OF BOUTEFLIKA'S SUPPORTERS GATHERED FOR ELECTION CAMPAIGN RALLY BOUTEFLIKA WAVING FROM STAGE SUPPORTERS CHEERING BOUTEFLIKA WITH ARMS RAISED IN SALUTE TO SUPPORTERS UNIDENTIFIED LOCATIONS, ALGERIA (FILE - 1990S) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) ARMED MAN WALKING PAST NEWLY DUG GRAVES VARIOUS OF BLOOD ON HOUSE STEPS FUNERAL FOR VICTIMS OF ATTACKS BY ISLAMIC SALVATION FRONT (FIS) VARIOUS OF SECURITY FORCES CARRYING BODIES AND PLACING THEM ON THE GROUND MOURNERS GATHERED NEXT TO BODIES VARIOUS OF ISLAMIST MILITANTS BEING RELEASED FROM PRISON AND EMBRACED BY RELATIVES AND SUPPORTERS ALGIERS, ALGERIA (FILE - SEPTEMBER 16, 1999) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF ALGERIANS VOTING IN REFERENDUM ON PEACE PLAN TO END THE CIVIL WAR
- Embargoed: 28th April 2014 13:00
- Location: France, Algeria
- Country: Algeria
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9UV07Y3NQR8TSY8FT3S3C193I
- Story Text: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is likely to retain control of Algeria in Thursday's (April 17) presidential elections, which will be held as he recovers from a stroke which has prevented him from campaigning.
Bouteflika has no serious rivals for re-election and has only rarely spoken in public since his illness.
Questions about his health and Algeria's stability are key for Western governments, who see the North African state as a partner in the campaign against Islamist militancy in the Maghreb, and a stable supplier of gas for Europe.
Bouteflika, who spent three months in a Paris hospital last year, has the support of the powerful Front de Liberation Nationale party (FLN), which has dominated Algerian politics since independence from France, and most observers say he faces little challenge from the five election rivals.
Bouteflika loyalists believe he delivered Algeria from the darker days of its 1990s war with Islamist militants, which killed around 200,000 people and left many Algerians deeply wary of instability.
Born on March 2, 1937, Bouteflika was a veteran of Algeria's war for independence from France. He served as foreign minister for 16 years until 1979 and meeting the likes of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie and Saddam Hussein, then the Iraqi vice-president.
After the death of President Houari Boumedienne, Bouteflika's fortunes waned, and he went into self-imposed exile in 1981 to escape corruption charges that were later dropped. He returned to Algeria in 1987.
In 1999 he won the presidency with the backing of the army, promising to end violence with Islamist rebels that had begun after the cancellation of a 1992 parliamentary election that an Islamic party was set to win.
In 2004, Bouteflika became the only Algerian head of state to be re-elected in democratic polls since independence in 1962.
Five years later he took 90 percent of the vote in a presidential election to win a third five-year term as leader. An opposition party which had called for a boycott of the poll alleged fraud on an "industrial scale" and a newspaper reported rioting east of the capital - a reminder of the anger over poverty and unemployment felt in parts of the country.
Bouteflika described France's 130-year rule in Algeria as barbaric and urged Paris to apologise for massacres of Algerians, but travelled to paris in 2000 to meet President Jacque Chirac and was operated on in France for a stomach ulcer in 2005; leaked U.S. diplomatic cables suggested he had cancer.
He overcame years of isolation for Algeria, welcoming a succession of foreign heads of state and government to Algiers, but his socialist-oriented policies failed to wean the economy off its reliance on oil and gas.
He was rushed to hospital in France suffering from a stroke in 2013 and returned to Algeria in July to convalesce. Bouteflika is widely expected to win this month's presidential election but has left his former prime minister and other loyalists to campaign for him.
His absences, and his health, have raised doubts about what will happen after the election in an OPEC oil exporter that supplies a fifth of Europe's gas, and plays a significant role in the Western war on Islamist militants.
Opponents dismiss Bouteflika's bid as the last breath of the old guard from the ruling Front de Liberation Nationale party (FLN) which has dominated Algerian politics since 1962 independence from France.
The five main opposition candidates running against Bouteflika seem to have little hope in a political system critics say has hardly changed since independence, and is still dominated by the FLN and its network of allied parties.
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