A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bouteflika and the Fourth Term: Does He Really Mean It?

The National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria has endorsed Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fourth Presidential term in the elections next April  which is being reported as Bouteflika's deciding to run for the term, though he has not directly said so himself. While it's at least possible that this is a feint to allow him to complete his current round of power reshuffles aimed at breaking the entrenched power of the military and security services (known as "le pouvoir" in Algeria), he may well believe he can do it, despite his stroke earlier this year.

Regular readers (or if you search the Bouteflika tag) will recall that since Bouteflika's return from his French convalescence after the stroke, there has been much debate about a fourth term, but since September he as been actively reshuffling the Cabinet and the powerful DRS security service. Recently he proposed constitutional changes to entrench this. It was unclear if all this was aimed at securing a third term or clearing the obstacles for a chosen successor.

There is plenty of precedent for Arab leaders clinging to power long after age and failing health have weakened their abilities, but last April, a year before the elections, that the time had passed for his generation, the generation of the War of Independence. Has he changed his mind?

The elections are several months away and Bouteflika's rivals in the security services have been outflanked but not destroyed. I suspect this is not the end of the story. But the FLN move may precipitate new developments.

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