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Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Abdelaziz BOUTEFLIKA, with the backing of the military, won the presidency in 1999 with 74% of the vote in an election widely viewed as fraudulent, was reelected to a second term in 2004, and overwhelmingly won a third term in 2009 after the government amended the constitution in 2008 to remove presidential term limits. Bouteflika joined the roster of African presidents who persuaded their parliaments to end or extend constitutional limits on the number of terms a president may serve. 'Boutef' was free to stand for a third term. The election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 1999 constituted the first one where the candidate was neither a military man and nor an incumbent. His re-election in 2004 constituted another evolution since he was the first incumbent civilian to be re-elected through a competitive vote and without the express support of the military.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was born on 2 March 1937 at Tlemcen, Algeria. After his secondary education, he pursued studies in philosophy, which were interrupted vhen he joined the National Liberation Front (FLN), followed by service in the National Liberation Army (ALN) in 1956. He was Sectional Secretary-General of the General Union of Algerian Moslem Students (UGEMA). As an officer of the ALN General Staff, he was a close collaborator with President Boumedienne, then Chief of the General Staff, and undertook several politico-military missions.

He had a double mandate of Comptroller General of the wilaya V in 1957 and 1958. Officer in zone 4 and in zone 7 Wilaya V, it is then attached to the PC of the wilaya V, then, successively, PC "COM West", le PC de l'Etat - major "West" and the State - PC General major of the NLA. In 1960, the Commander Abdelaziz Bouteflika is affected the southern borders of the country to order the "front of Mali" whose creation involved in efforts to oust companies of the country on the part of the colonial; power division which earned him the nom de guerre of Si Abdelkader El Mali. In 1961 he clandestinely entered into France on a mission to contact historical leaders of the revolution held at Aulnoy.

In 1962, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was a member of the Constituent Assembly. He was a member of the first Constitutional Assembly and was elected as a deputy from Tlemcen to the first and second Legislative Assemblies. In September 1962 at age 25 became Minister of Youth, Sports and Tourism of the first Government of the independent Algeria. He was also a member of the legislature in 1963, prior to his appointment, in April 1963, as Minister for Foreign Affairs ad interim. In June 1963, he was confirmed in his duties of Minister for Foreign Affairs and has been in that post since. After the FLN Congress of April 1964, he was designated a member of the Central Committee and of the Political Bureau of the FLN.

In 1964 he was elected by the Congress of the national liberation front as member of central Committee and political bureau member. Abdelaziz Bouteflika took an active part in the June 1965 revolutionary adjustment which saw the establishment of the Council of the Revolution of which he was a member, under the chairmanship of Houari Boumediene.

Mr. Bouteflika headed the Algerian inter-ministerial delegation for the Algerian-French negotiations (1963) aimed at solving the pending administrative, financial and commercial problems left over after independence; the Algerian delegation to the 1962 negotiations; and those of 1971 on the settlement of the petroleum question.

Extended into the functions of Minister of Foreign Affairs, he delivered, in 1979, diplomatic action that will be worth in his country a prestige, radiation and influence that will set the Algeria as one of the leaders of the third world, and, as such, as desired interlocutor of the great powers. It defines the guideline Algerian diplomacy dispose more thereafter, based on respect for international law and support just causes around the world.

An experienced and recognized diplomat, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was decisive, for more than a decade, foreign policy leads to Algerian diplomacy, including strengthening and unifying the ranks Arab Summit in Khartoum 1967, then during the war of October 1973 against Israel, the international recognition of the boundaries of the Algeria and the establishment of good neighbourly relations and of brotherhood with the neighbouring countries, or the failure of the embargo against the Algeria to nationalization of hydrocarbons.

In the United Nations, Mr. Bouteflika headed the Algerian delegation to the regular and special sessions of the General Assembly since 1963. He also headed his country's delegation to the fifty-fifth session of the Economic anal Social Council and to the second and third sessions of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in New Delhi in 1968 and in Santiago in 1973.

Elected unanimously Chairman of the 29th session of the Assembly General of the United Nations, in 1974, Abdelaziz Bouteflika gots the the international community organized against South Africa for its policy of apartheid regime and despite objections, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat delivered a speech to the General Assembly. He is also, in 1975, the 7th special session devoted to energy and raw materials which the Algeria was one of the initiators.

In the "Group of 77" developing countries, he was President of the first Conference of Ministers of member countries of the Group held at Algiers in October 1967 and headed the Algerian delegation to the second Conference in Lima in October 1971. As for conferences of the non-aligned countries he was a member of the Algerian delegation to the second Summit Conference of Non-aligned Countries held in Cairo in 1964, and headed the Algerian delegation to the Conference of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Non-Aligned Countries held in Dar es Salaam and he was General rapporteur of that Conference.

He headed the Algerian delegation to the conference of Heads of States of Non-Aligned Countries held in Lusaka in 1970 and to the Conference of Ministers of Non-Aligned Countries, held in New York in 1971 and in Georgetown in 1972. He also headed the Algerian delegation to the conference of Ministers for Foreign Affairs held in Kabul in 1973. He was president of the Conference of Ministers of Non-Aligned Countries entrusted with the preparation the Fourth Algiers Summit in 1973 and a member of the Algerian delegation to the Fourth Conference of Heads of States and Governments.

In the organization of African Unity (OAU), Mr. Bouteflika was rapporteur of the first session of the Council of Ministers of the OAU held in Dakar in April 1963 and headed tie Algerian delegations at all sessions of the Council of Ministers since the organization was established. He was president of the eleventh session of the Council of Ministers held in Algiers in 1968.

At the death of President Boumediène in 1978, as the closest companion of the deceased, he delivered the eulogy. He resigned as foreign minister in 1979. He became the main target of the policy of "déboumédiènisation" and was forced to exile lasted more than 6 years. From 1981 to 1987 he was in exile due to allegations of corruption, but returned after the case was dropped.

He returned to Algeria in January 1987 and was a signatory to the "motion of the 18" concerning the events of October 1988. He signed a protest against alleged government brutality in 1988, and stepped out of the limelight. He took part in the Congress of the FLN in 1989, which elected him member of the central Committee. He is a member of the National Rally for Democracy party.

Bouteflika kept a low profile after the January 1992 coup that forced Bendjedid to resign the presidency. As civil war raged, the Haut Comité d'Etat - a collective executive - urged Bouteflika to accept the restored presidency. He refused, and Liamine Zeroual was selected in 1994 and elected in November 1995 - the first free multiparty election in Algeria's history (although the banned FIS could not participate).

He ran for the presidency in 1999 as the candidate of the National Liberation Front and the National Democratic Rally, both military-backed parties. Algerians went to the polls in April 1999, following a campaign in which seven candidates qualified for election. On the eve of the election, all candidates except Abdelaziz Bouteflika pulled out amid charges of widespread electoral fraud. Bouteflika, the candidate who appeared to enjoy the backing of the military, as well as the FLN and the RND party regulars, won with an official vote count of 70% of all votes cast. He was inaugurated on April 27, 1999 for a 5-year term.

President Bouteflika's agenda focused initially on restoring security and stability to the country. Following his inauguration, he proposed an official amnesty for those who fought against the government during the 1990s with the exception of those who had engaged in "blood crimes," such as rape or murder. This "Civil Concord" policy was widely approved in a nationwide referendum in September 2000. Bouteflika worked to end the civil war with Islamic fundamentalists, and the largest group ceased fighting in June 1999, leading to a significant drop in violence. Government officials estimate that 80% of those fighting the regime during the 1990s have accepted the civil concord offer and have attempted to reintegrate into Algerian society. Bouteflika also launched national commissions to study education and judicial reform, as well as restructuring of the state bureaucracy.

In May 2001, new laws severely limited the press's freedom to criticize public official-including the president-in an insulting or demeaning way. The new laws were implemented with greater vigor after the re-election of Bouteflika-many commentators say that it was in retaliation against those who vehemently opposed his re-election. As a result, several journalists were tried and incarcerated. Furthermore, even though the Islamist rebellion has been quelled and security has improved tremendously, the government refused to lift the stage of siege that was imposed more than a decade earlier.

The April 8, 2004, presidential election was the first election since independence in which several candidates competed. Besides incumbent President Bouteflika, five other candidates, including one woman, competed in the election. Opposition candidates complained of some discrepancies in the voting list; irregularities on polling day, particularly in Kabylie; and of unfair media coverage during the campaign as Bouteflika, by virtue of his office, appeared on state-owned television daily. Bouteflika was re-elected in the first round of the election with 84.99% of the vote. Just over 58% of those Algerians eligible to vote participated in the election.

In 2006 Algerians were increasingly discussing and expressing concern about President Bouteflika's health. His infrequent public appearances and the postponement of a referendum on constitutional reform expected for December led ordinary Algerians to conclude that the president's health was declining. While the presidency denied that anything ails Bouteflika, the public generally believes he suffers from stomach or intestinal cancer. So widespread was the concern that independent media reporting on what one paper called the "deterioration" of Bouteflika's health suddenly took a remarkable turn toward the prolific. By comparison, when Bouteflika was hospitalized in Paris in late 2005, the Algerian press -- both official and private -- stuck to reporting the uninformative government communiques on Bouteflika's condition.

In a speech entitled, "Assessments and Perspectives," President Bouteflika on 26 December 2007 displayed some traditional Algerian paranoia about foreigners. Without naming any group in particular, he lashed out at international NGOs that work with Algerian civil society to the detriment of Algerian interests, and he criticized Algerians who "sneak" into foreign embassies to supply them with information. Foreigners, he warned, usually do not work for the interests of Algeria. He also lashed out at Algerians who gain dual nationality, calling them shameful.

In November 2008, the parliament adopted a set of constitutional amendments that included a removal of presidential term limits. The parliament approved the proposed amendments by a wide margin with minimal debate. President Bouteflika won a third term in the April 9, 2009, elections with, officially, 90.2% of the vote. Opposition members again complained of unfair media coverage and irregularities during voting, and some parties boycotted the vote. In the years since Bouteflika was first elected, the security situation in Algeria has improved markedly.

Longstanding problems continue to face BOUTEFLIKA, including large-scale unemployment, a shortage of housing, unreliable electrical and water supplies, government inefficiencies and corruption, and the continuing activities of extremist militants. A disproportionate number of cabinet ministers and generals come from the same region in the western province of Tlemcen as President Bouteflika. Indeed, many in the inner circle come from the small town of Nedrumah. The loyalty of this "gang" is key to maintaining stability, just as it did in Saddamn Hussein's Iraq.

The change he was committed to from the start included three main elements: 1) put an end to the internal war waged by the Islamist rebellion; 2) take Algeria out of the international isolation that was caused by the war; and 3) diminish the power of the military establishment in Algeria's political system. By 2005 he had succeeded in the first two and was still working on the third. These three elements have constituted his top priorities. Badly needed economic reforms have not yet been tackled and democracy has not been an explicit item on Bouteflika's agenda.

Even though he is often accused of having ''Bonapartist'' tendencies, Bouteflika is genuinely interested in Algeria's well-being, rather than just in his own political survival or for the sake of burnishing a historical legacy. He has been able to co-opt both conservative holdovers from the previous era and moderate Islamists who see him as a good tactical ally. However, this also made him a hostage to these two tendencies to the point that he resisted liberal reforms and enacted-or maintained-some conservative policies since 1999.

President Bouteflika has never gotten along with the Algerian independent press. He perceives it as serving certain particular interests (i.e., his political rivals and those whose interests his policies threaten) and as lacking professionalism. He was especially angered by the way he was attacked by this press during the 2004 electoral campaign. Since he came to office, new laws were passed by an acquiescent parliament limiting the relative press freedom which was enjoyed for over a decade. Since his re-election last year, several journalists have been tried jailed just for having spoken their mind on some governmental practices or on some leaders, including the president himself. This crackdown, which constitutes a disproportionate response to what might be libel - in the worst case - cast serious doubts about the place of democracy and individual freedoms in Bouteflika's agenda for Algeria. Since the judicial branch is tightly controlled by the executive, the average Algerian has almost no means to resist and fight abuse of power by peaceful means.

To the surprise of no one, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected to a third term on 09 April 2009 in a carefully choreographed and heavily controlled election with official results the main opposition leader called "Brezhnevian." Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni announced in a press conference on April 10 that a record 74.54 percent of over 20 million eligible voters participated in the election, with Bouteflika receiving 90.24 percent of the votes. Opposition parties and defeated candidates have placed actual turnout figures at between 18 and 55 percent, while informal Embassy observations indicated that the vast majority of polling stations were empty across the capital, with actual turnout at 25-30 percent at most.

A joint statement by observer teams from the African Union, Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference was quick to proclaim the election "fair and transparent," but UN monitors declined to participate in the statement despite Algerian government pressure to do so. Their concerns, to be presented in a private report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, illustrate a system in which opposition parties and civil society have their backs against the wall and citizens had little to do with a political process increasingly detached from society. With Bouteflika's hold on power secure, Algeria faced an urgent need for dialogue between the population and the state, a situation that left the UN monitors deeply worried about what comes next.

Algeria’s presidential elections took place on April 17, and voters re-elected President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fourth term. Although he did not personally campaign, Bouteflika won approximately 81 percent of the votes, while his main rival and former prime minister, Ali Benflis, placed second with slightly more than 12 percent. The youngest candidate, Abdelaziz Belaid, was third with approximately 3 percent of the votes. The only female candidate and leader of the Workers’ Party, Louisa Hanoune, placed fourth and received slightly more than 1 percent.

Several hundred international election observers from the United Nations, Arab League, African Union, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation monitored voting. Foreign observers characterized the elections as largely peaceful but pointed to low voter turnout and a high rate of ballot invalidity. El Watan, a large, opposition-leaning daily newspaper, reported that almost 10 percent of ballots cast were invalid. The Interior Ministry did not provide observers with voter registration lists.

Bouteflika ruled Algeria for 20 years. He had a stroke in 2013 and had rarely been seen in public since. He came to power with the support of an army battling Islamist guerrillas, but nobody expected him to stay in office for so long.

Algeria's president informed the country's constitutional council 02 SApril 2019 of his decision to stand down. Abdelaziz Bouteflika's resignation followed an aggressive call from the country's defense ministry for the embattled president to quit "immediately" following weeks of street protests.

Bouteflika ruled Algeria for 20 years. He had a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since. He came to power with the support of an army battling Islamist guerrillas, but nobody expected him to stay in office for so long.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2019 16:26:58 ZULU