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2014 Election - President

In April 2011, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced a series of constitutional reforms after pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011. Also, his government, for the first time, admitted international election observers as part of efforts to boost transparency. The new parliament voted on proposed constitutional changes and laid the groundwork for presidential elections in 2014.

Aging incumbent; Abdelaziz Bouteflika sought a fourth term despite concerns over his health. A stroke in 2013 left the 77-year-old in a wheelchair and barely able to speak. The president declared he was fit to govern. He also promised reforms if elected and pledged to make the oil and gas-rich nation more democratic by amending the constitution. But the countrys largest legal Islamist party, the Movement of Society for Peace, and the liberal Rally for Culture and Democracy party, both said they would boycott the 17 April 2014 election. While five other candidates are running for the presidency, Bouteflika was the overwhelming favorite and he has the power of the state supporting his campaign. Bouteflika had the support of the security services and has good relations with the military, the real holder of power. The Interior Ministry released official preliminary results on 18 April 2014 that show Bouteflika captured almost 82 percent of the vote.

In October 2014, after hundreds of police officers demonstrated outside the Algerian presidency, the country's civil protection department issued a statement threatening to protest again if their working conditions were not improved. This was the first time in Algeria's history that security forces have taken to the streets. The officers were reportedly demanding better pay and working conditions, along with public housing for their families.

Since 01 January 2015, the residents of Ain Salah, located about 1,200km south of the capital, Algiers, were protesting against drilling for shale gas at a nearby site, citing environmental concerns. At one point, thousands of people occupyied Ain Salah's Soumoud (Arabic for steadfastness) Square as part of the grassroots movement, which bills itself as being "eco-friendly" and "peaceful". The anti-shale gas battle then spread across other parts of Algeria's Saharan region. By May 2015, having failed to obtain many tangible results, the anti-shale gas movement weakened and fragmented.

On 14 September 2015 Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika replaced the long-standing head of Algeria's military intelligence agency, in his latest move in a campaign to curb the spy chief's influence in politics. The removal of Mohamed Mediene, chief of the intelligence service for more than two decades, sidelined a powerful figure in the country. Known by his nickname Toufik and seldom seen even in photographs, Mediene had long played the role of political kingmaker, analysts said, influencing leadership choices in Algeria's backroom tussles between civilian and military factions within the leadership.

There was rampant speculation that the ailing Bouteflika would leave power before the end of his five-year term and a vice president will take over. But that scenario would require a constitution amendment to create posts for one or two vice presidents, something that could take time to enact, causing yet more political stagnation.

By late 2014 it remained unclear who may succeed the ailing incumbent. The more a potential candidate talks about his presidential ambitions, the less likely he was to be chosen as Bouteflika's successor. The names of two close confidantes of the president are mentioned regularly in the group of potential successors: former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, Minister of State in charge of the president's office, and Bouteflika's brother, Said. The former would be a more consensual figure, able to appeal to a wider constituency than Said. However, Said was where ultimately power lies at this moment and he was concerned with the survival of his power after his brother was gone.

There was a general feeling in Algeria that real political change will only take place once Bouteflika leaves office, either through incapacitation or death. His departure would end an era of legitimacy based on leaders of the Algerian war of independence and the transition to a new generation whose legitimacy was a vision for the future. With approximately 70 percent of the population under 30, a high unemployment rate in excess of 20 percent and without real reform to open the political space, Algeria could witness the sort of popular uprisings that took place in the neighborhood.



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