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Algerian president in rare appearance as election campaign ends

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-13

Algeria's ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika made a rare public appearance on Saturday on the second-to-last day of the country’s presidential campaign.

Bouteflika, 77, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office despite deteriorating health following a stroke last year.

He appeared only one other time before Saturday’s televised meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo. This was in televised meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on April 3, in which he appeared frail, with his voice barely audible.

He used the occasion this weekend to accuse his main rival, former prime minister Ali Benfis, of fomenting violence on the campaign trail.

Farouk Atig, FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in the capital of Algiers, said that thousands of Bouteflika supporters were expected to participate in a major rally on Sunday closing the campaign.

“We have been told to expect a surprise,” Atig said. “That could mean an appearance of the president, or maybe recorded images of him that will be broadcast at the rally.”

Algerians will vote in a presidential election Thursday, with Bouteflika largely expected to win.

Benflis has repeatedly warned against electoral fraud, which he calls his "main adversary," and which he says defeated democracy in the 2004 election in which he ran.

The election is taking place amid unanswered questions about the position of the powerful army, in a country whose secretive military elite are often considered the real decision makers, and with signs that its leaders are sharply divided.

In February, a retired senior general urged Bouteflika to step down "with dignity," saying in an interview with El Watan that he was speaking on behalf of others in the armed forces.

Despite the often scathing criticism levelled against him in the independent media, Bouteflika remains popular with many Algerians, especially for helping to end the devastating civil war in the 1990s.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-04-13

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