Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announces reelection campaign

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s president announced on Thursday that he intends to run for a second term in office, five years after ascending to power as the military and establishment-backed candidate during widespread pro-democracy protests.

The 78-year-old political veteran, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, said in an interview broadcast on Algerian television that his decision came in response to support from political parties and young people.

“If the Algerian people want to vote for me, that’s fine, otherwise I’ll have accomplished my mission and whoever succeeds me will be welcome,” he said, lauding his record as well as the gas-rich North African country’s security and stability.

Tebboune had avoided declaring his intentions even after setting the Sept. 7 election date almost four months ago.

Despite repeated demurrals, his intentions were “an open secret” and his candidacy a byproduct of discussions among the political elite, says political scientist Rachid Grime.

Tebboune’s announcement came a day after he visited Kabylia, a mountainous region east of Algiers known as an epicenter of anti-government sentiment. Several members of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia are behind bars.

While there, Tebboune inaugurated a new stadium and announced a planned 500-bed hospital and desalination plant for the region.

Besides Tebboune, 34 candidates have announced plans to run in the election.

However, only three so far have gathered the number of signatures necessary to appear on the ballot — at least 50,000 in half of the country’s 58 regions. Candidates have until July 18 to collect the required signatures.

The three are: Youcef Aouchiche of the Socialist Forces Front, Algeria’s largest opposition party; Abdellah Hassan Cherif of the Islamist party Movement for Society and Peace; and Sadia Naghzi of the General Confederation of Algerian Enterprises.

A second Tebboune term would entrench the power of Algeria’s political and military elite and further distance the country from the aspirations voiced by its “Hirak” movement, which held weekly street protests that pressured the country’s ailing octogenarian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to resign in April 2019, after two decades in office.

Tebboune, a former prime minister under Bouteflika, emerged the victor in an election with a low turnout election in 2019. Protesters boycotted it and decried it as a rushed affair designed to maintain the old regime’s grip on power over the nation with a population of 45 million.

After initially releasing some jailed protesters and journalists, Tebboune launched a campaign to bring stability and fight corruption, tightening his grip on power in the process.

Political party activity and media freedoms have since waned, with journalists facing prison time and critical outlets losing state advertising funding they have relied on to stay afloat.

Though Tebboune pledged early to diversify Algeria’s gas-reliant economy, the OPEC member depends on exports to Europe — particularly as the war in Ukraine increased demand for non-Russian fuel.

Though Algeria’s gas reserves make it richer than its neighbors by most metrics, it has been plagued by occasional shortages of necessities like cooking oil.

As a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council, Algeria has denounced Israel’s actions throughout the nine months of the Israel-Hamas war and it has maintained friendly ties with Russia, China and Turkey as well as European nations like France and Italy, which Tebboune visited as part of the Group of Seven summit in Italy last month.

Despite the legacy of its colonial past, Algeria also has close ties with France politically and economically. Tebboune is Algeria’s first president to not have fought in the war that led to Algeria’s independence in 1962.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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