A fresh start.

Author:Rake, Alan
Position:Current Affairs - Profile on Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika - Statistical Data Included
 
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Abdelaziz Bouteflika won the Algerian presidential elections in April under a cloud of suspicion, accused of being the stooge of the army and tainted by past Algerian regimes which he had served so long. But since coming to power he has made all the right noises and appears to be giving his war-torn country afresh chance.

Algeria may be on the cusp of change. The man responsible is the veteran politician Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who won the fiercely controversial elections in April. The small (5ft 4 inch) figure, known to his friends and colleagues by the diminutive nickname 'Boutef' has already taken a small step for his country.

Boutef's roots go right back into Algeria's past. He was a commander in the National Liberation Army (ALN) fighting the war of independence against the French from 1954-62, in which over half a million lives were lost. Then he was foreign minister for 16 years under successive FLN governments and the protege of the former president Houari Boumedienne.

When his predecessor, President Lt Gen Liamine Zeroual, suddenly stepped down, the ruling Rassemblement National Democratique (RND) party surprisingly did not put up a candidate of its own. Instead it adopted Bouteflika, who had already been endorsed by his own party, the FLN. With the backing of both the major parties and the military establishment, he emerged as the only serious candidate for the April elections.

Bouteflika sees himself as an Algerian nationalist, a reformer and conciliator. He promised that he would set his war-torn country on the path of peace and emerged virtually unchallenged to represent the FLN and other moderate groups in the elections. But the six candidates who opposed him accused him of being a grandee of the authoritarian, socialist, one-party state of Houari Boumedienne, who ousted Ben Bella, Algeria's first president, in 1965. He was also accused of being a puppet of the army, which backed his campaign and remains the ultimate power in the land.

At the election on 15 April he won easily, polling over 7.4 million votes or 73.79 per cent of the total electorate, according to official figures. The turnout was also reportedly as relatively high at over 60 per cent. The other candidates, protesting fraud, tried to withdraw their candidatures but their names remained on the ballot papers when the election took place. They won negligible percentages and insisted the elections had been fixed.

Violent protests broke out in the streets of Algiers...

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