- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill: International Isolation De-Icing
- Official Title: President
- Government: Multi-Party, Coalition Government
- Years Left in Office: Until April 2014; re-election possible
- Political Classification:
- Age: 81 (born March 2, 1937)
Abdelaziz Bouteflika Facts and Information
- Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been the President of Algeria for three consecutive 5 year terms (since 1999)
- He was responsible for amending the Algerian Constitution to allow for a president to serve more than two terms in office
- Dissent is widespread in Algeria due to poor standards of living and insuppressible violence
- President Bouteflika greatly improved foreign relations after many years of Algerian isolation
- President Bouteflika has suffered from serious health problems since 2005, including a recent stroke in April 2013
Abdelaziz Bouteflika is the long-standing—and somehow still-standing—Algerian President, and consequently the head of the Algerian state. Born in 1937, Bouteflika was appointed President of Algeria in 1999 and, thanks to several constitutional amendments, has retained that title ever since. His journey into the presidency was a long one (about 42 years to be exact), but in order to understand such a journey, a small understanding of the Algerian government is of major importance.
The Algerian Government is considered a multi-party, coalition government with the President, elected democratically by popular vote, as the Head of State. The President is responsible for appointing his own Cabinet of Ministers. The body of the government is made up of a bicameral parliament which consists of the Council of the Nation and the National People’s Assembly. At any point in Algerian history there have been up to 40 political parties present, but the Fronte de Liberation Nationale (FLN) or the National Liberation Front has always been, and still is, the most powerful and influential political party of Algeria.
Okay, back to the man of the hour, Moroccan-born President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria. As I said before, his rise to become the almighty Head of State was not the easiest journey. Bouteflika entered the political world at the mere age of 20 by joining the National Liberation Front (FLN) during the Algerian War for Independence. He soon became an officer in the National Liberation Army and helped lead the Algerian troops to independence from the oppressive French on July 5, 1962 (aka: Algerian Independence Day).
The French invaded Algeria in 1830 due to an initiative from King Charles X in hopes of gaining popularity among the French people. Algeria then became known as French Algeria from 1830 to their independence in 1962 – you do the math. Yep, Algeria was a French colony for almost a century and a half. In 1954, the Algerians finally decided that it was time to break away from the French and began what is now known as the Algerian War for Independence. This war was not only a war between the Algerians and the Frenchies, it was also a civil war between those Algerians loyal to France, and their revolting Muslim opponents. This 8 year, extremely brutal war, characterized by guerilla warfare, terrorism, torture of civilians, and maquis fighting ended in 1962, when President Charles de Gaulle of France decided that it was about time to give up Algeria. Longing to know more about the Algerian War for Independence? Check out the film “Battle of Algiers.” Awesome classic cinema.
Due to Bouteflika’s involvement in the war, he was appointed minister for youth, sports, and tourism in the newly independent Algeria. One year later he was made foreign minister under Algeria’s first president, Ahmed Ben Bella. Bouteflika joined forces with military leader, Colonel Houari Boumedienne in a coup to overthrow president Bella due to the fact that some believed Bella was violating the essence of the very revolution the Algerians just worked so hard to win. The coup was a success, in turn making Boumedienne the new president of Algeria while Bouteflika retained his title as foreign minister. Boumedienne remained president until his death in 1979, which gave Bouteflika what seemed like the undeniable path to power…or not. The army chose to instead appoint defense minister Chadli Bendjedid, charged Bouteflika with corruption in 1981, and forced him into self-imposed exile. Can you see now what I mean by “long journey?” No need to worry, these next 20 years are much more uneventful than the first, for Bouteflika at least.
After several years abroad, the charges were dropped and Bouteflika returned to Algeria and to the Central Committee of the FLN. For a while, he kept himself on the sidelines while the army overthrew the government, scrapped elections, started a civil war, and the country basically fell into shambles. In 1999, Bouteflika finally decided to throw himself back into the Algerian chaos and ran for president as an independent candidate supported by the military. The election was apparently marked by rigging and late withdrawal of other candidates (which you will see is a common theme of all of Bouteflika’s elections). There you have it, after 42 years in the political arena, Bouteflika finally made it to the top – now let us explore his presidency!
Bouteflika’s first term as president was focused mainly on restoring the country, making Algeria a player in the global game, and securing safety and peace within. His solution to Algeria’s hurting economy was the first of three five-year economic plans: the Support Plan for Economic Recovery. This plan focused on raising agricultural production, constructing social housing units, roads, and implementing other infrastructure projects. Bouteflika also brought Algeria back into the world after a long period of isolation by making it a point to attend international functions and affairs. Finally, Bouteflika attempted to rid of the civil conflict by granting amnesty to militant Islamist groups within Algeria’s borders, which worked…for a little while.
On the note of ridding of civil conflict, ever since its independence, and mainly since Bouteflika came into power, the Algerian government has been extremely focused on “suppressing terrorism,” or in reality, suppressing militant islamic groups. This has caused extreme dissent in the country that is seemingly increasing in Algeria today—more on that later.
2004 – Another presidential election sweeps Algeria and President Bouteflika again wins what is considered the most “fair” election in his 3-election history. Rumors of rigging still circulated, but his re-election was widely considered as the “popular” choice. This presidency marked the need for a new 5-year economic plan, this one titled The Complementary Plan for Economic Growth that invested approximately $50 billion to renew Algeria’s infrastructure and economy. It was much more involved than the first plan and the president promised one million new homes and expansion in employment – this promise was not completely fulfilled, but the economy continued to grow with special thanks to the ever-growing oil prices. Bouteflika continued his attempts to resolve the past lack of foreign interaction. For example, in this term specifically, Bouteflika worked with France and signed a “Treaty of Amity” in 2005, and also became the president of the Arab League for one year. In this term, Bouteflika worked hard to attempt to completely wipe out the overwhelming violence still present in Algeria. He drafted the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation which granted a six-month amnesty period to those not directly engaged in violence and partial amnesty for those involved. It also provided provisions for the victims and the families of those that disappeared. The violence did not stop; it unfortunately grew and continued to grow towards the latter end of this presidential term.
Another thing to take note of in this term is that President Bouteflika became very ill in 2005 and was absent for several periods of time. This is a reoccurring trend in the years to follow of his presidency.
In late 2008, Bouteflika finally received approval from Parliament for an amendment to the Constitution that had been proposed several years prior. This amendment allowed a president to run for an unlimited amount of terms, appointed a vice president, and made the government answer to the president rather than the parliament. This allowed President Bouteflika to run for a third term as president in 2009, which brought about yet another win for him! This win was universally considered fraud, but he won!
This brings us to the president’s current term (2009-2014), and Algeria is doing alright, that is, despite the violence that still continues across all of Algeria thanks to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrib (AQIM). Quick Side note on the al-Qaeda: For those of you that do not know, al-Qaeda is classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State and the European Union. The AQIM, specifically, is an Islamist militant group looking to overthrow the Algerian government and in turn institute an Islamist state. The economy has improved due to a recovery in oil prices from a dip in 2008 and the GDP hit a high since the 1990s, but the people are still not happy. The country itself is not necessarily poor, but the people are overwhelmingly poor, causing more violence and riots. Bouteflika’s policies now address popular demands. His number one job is to maintain social peace which includes his third 5-year economic plan much like the others, increased spending on consumer subsidies, job creation, and housing, and increases in the minimum wage.
Also during this term, Bouteflika has been forced to deal with the internal dissent cause by the protests of the “Arab Spring.” Beginning on December 18, 2010, a wave of protests, riots, and civil wars hit the Arab world like a ton of bricks, and is formally known as the “Arab Spring.” Algeria, although one of the least affected countries, experienced major protests from December 2010 to January 2012 resulting in 8 deaths (which pales in comparison to the 30,000+ deaths in Libya) and no real changes to political policy. If you are interested in more info on the Arab Spring in other nations, check out the map below.
The latest news affecting President Bouteflika and possibly changing the future of Algeria is the President’s April 2013 stroke. Although the stroke was reported as being minor, this adds to his history of poor health and may change his ideas about the election coming up in 2014. Is it time for the 76 year old to take a step back? Is it time for a new President in Algeria? Hang tight, we will find out in April!
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