By not making his intentions clear about standing for re-election, Algerian President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika seems to be doing what he did during the last election in 2014: registering just days before the deadline. This year, the deadline is March 4. Should the president, as expected, announce his candidacy, all eyes will be on his powerful brother, Said Bouteflika, who is increasingly seen as the power behind the throne.
For decades, a group of men from the security state, collectively known as “Le Pouvoir” or “the powers that be”, have run Algeria. But in the past few months, the composition of “Le Pouvoir” has been changed. A who’s-who of big shots from the army, the police, and the gendarmerie have been replaced. And in 2016, Bouteflika disbanded the powerful DRS intelligence agency.
Algeria experienced the trauma of a brutal civil war, sparked after the army cancelled the 1992 elections which Islamists were poised to win, which left 200,000 dead. Bouteflika, who assumed power in 1999, was credited with the country’s emergence from that conflict. Despite his extremely poor health, the current “Le Pouvoir” might find it difficult to agree on an alternative candidate to Bouteflika.