Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Algeria: Bouteflika under fire

Keep in mind that a presidential election is scheduled for April.

The ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) stands divided between those lawmakers who support President Bouteflika and those who don't. Bouteflika's opponents have now called on him to step down.
Sunday's demonstration -- called to protest a court ruling last week which froze the FLN's activities and funding, and nullified the results of a party congress that re-elected former head of government Ali Benflis as FLN secretary general -- was blocked by riot police before it could reach the National Assembly.

... Benflis has announced his candidacy in the April polls, while Bouteflika has not yet said whether he will seek re-election.

The party congress last March had also broadened Benflis' powers while dropping its backing of Bouteflika, whom the FLN had propelled to power in 1999, in polls marred by the 11th-hour withdrawal of six other candidates alleging massive fraud.

The president sacked Benflis as head of government eight months ago, sparking the rift in the FLN, which led Algeria's 1954-62 war of independence from France, pitting Bouteflika's backers against those of his former right-hand man.