Bouteflika’s candidacy to Algeria’s presidential election brings schism in the “Pouvoir” to surface

By bne IntelliNews March 17, 2014

Algeria’s 22.8mn electorate is heading to the polls on April 17 with a sense of 'déjà vu' to choose among 6 candidates running for the presidency including the three-term serving incumbent 77-year old Abdelaziz Bouteflika. By fielding his candidacy, an ailing Bouteflika, who has been rarely seen in public after suffering a stroke in April 2013, surprised many by backtracking on statements made in the past on the necessity of transferring power from an aging generation of revolutionary fighters in the war for independence from France to a younger generation that was interpreted at the time that he plans to step down.

His candidacy triggered the withdrawal of Ahmed Benbitour, former prime minister, and Mohand Tahar Yala, a retired army general, from the presidential race amidst allegations of vote “piracy with legal backing” and expected vote rigging. While allegations of electoral fraud is hardly a novelty in the context of Algerian politics, the fact that they are being voiced by insiders to the “pouvoir” - the term Algerians use to encapsulate the security chiefs, senior bureaucrats and regime cronies - and being reported by major state-owned national dailies may reflect factional fighting within the governing circle.

According to a report in London-based The Economist, on the one side stands a group of influential insiders supporting an ailing Bouteflika, a stalwart of the Front Liberation National (FLN), the revolutionary movement that runs the country since independence, and a foreign minister between 1963 and 1979. They seem to be working in alliance with Vice Minister of Defense and Army Chief of Staff, Ahmed Gaid Salah.

While the opposing camp is reportedly being run by General Toufik Mediane, the chief of Algeria’s main intelligence agency, Department du Renseignment et de la Securite, who has been running the service for over two decades with broad responsibility over security, including counter-terrorism, during the Islamist insurgency in the 1990s. In recent months, his agency has been accused by Amar Saadani, the secretary general of the FLN, of meddling in civilian politics.  

Since Bouteflika announced his candidacy, strangely by Algerian standards where demonstrations are banned, sporadic nationwide demonstrations have erupted including in the capital Algiers against the incumbent president standing for a fourth-term. The mostly peaceful protests facing heavy clampdown by the police have been organized by a group of civil rights activists including journalists under the banner of “Barakat” or Enough. It has resonances of Kefaya, the Egyptian civil rights movement that got going in the late 2000s and was instrumental in mobilizing the youth against deposed President Mubarak’s rule in 2011.

With the election date fast approaching and an assortment of remaining candidates seen as political light weights compared to a historical statesman of Bouteflika’s caliber, there may be more to Algeria’s presidential elections than first catches the eye.

Related Articles

Saudi Arabia's $17.5bn debut sovereign bond becomes largest emerging market offering

The size of Saudi Arabia’s debut international sovereign bond outdid all expectations, with the $17.5bn offering becoming the largest ever emerging market issue, the Financial Times ... more

Switzerland’s Reyl Bank to open accounts for Iranians

In a sign of a warming of relations between Bern and Tehran, Reyl & Cie, an independent Swiss banking group, has announced it will welcome Iranians opening private accounts as well as ... more

€100mn to be invested in Montenegro’s Lustica Bay resort by spring 2018

The developer of the Lustica Bay resort in Montenegro plans to invest a further €100mn in the luxury project within the next 18 months, bringing total investments so far to €180mn, Darren Gibson, ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.