Algeria has Sunday eyes turned to the Constitutional Council, where must be submitted the candidacy for a fifth term of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, despite the challenge he faces, unpublished since he came to power 20 years ago .
The presidential camp had announced that Mr. Bouteflika’s candidacy file would be filed on March 3 before midnight (2300 GMT ), the last day of the legal deadline.
Since then, the protest has swelled, especially on Friday, when massive demonstrations gathered in Algiers and across the country tens of thousands of men and women of all ages who chanted their refusal of a fifth term.
But the president and his supporters do not seem determined to give in to the streets.
“Those who conditioned their participation in the withdrawal of the candidacy of the President of the Republic, without the least scruple for the respect of the rules of political competition in democracy, will be (…) disappointed,” said Sunday El-Mujahid, body of official government press in its editorial, traditional vector of messages.
On Saturday, Mr. Bouteflika published his wealth, as required by the electoral law. He also thanked his 70-year-old campaign director Abdelmalek Sellal, a faithful who was his prime minister, to replace him with a younger man, little known to the general public.
Constitutional Council access blocked
A long-time partner in the opinion of Mr. Bouteflika, whose three previous successful campaigns he directed (2004, 2009, 2014), he was replaced by Abdelghani Zaalane, 54-year-old transport minister prefectural administration.
Sellal seems to have served as a “fuse” to try to calm the dispute. He was very exposed in the physical absence of the candidate Bouteflika, weakened since 2013 by the consequences of a stroke and hospitalized for a week now in Geneva, for “periodic medical examinations”, according to the presidency.
The return to Algeria of Mr. Bouteflika, who has not addressed the Algerians since his stroke and makes only a few public appearances, has still not been announced, a dozen hours from the expiration of Deadline for registering applications.
On its website, the Constitutional Council indicates that the file “must be filed by the candidate” by appointment. However, no legal provision seems to require a candidate to appear in person at the Constitutional Council to submit his file.
Unlike the previous polls, the many reporters on the spot have been locked in a room, from which they can not see who is coming and going and are dependent on the willingness or otherwise of the candidate to stand in front of them for a statement, according to a AFP reporter .
A large police force is deployed around the Constitutional Council and the street in which it is located has been closed to traffic since early morning.
Six files filed
Retired General Ali Ghediri, landed sensational on the Algerian political scene in late 2018 promising “the change” and “a second Republic” appeared in the morning to the Constitutional Council to file his case.
A moment seen as a possible grain of sand unforeseen in the wheels of a presidential whose victory seemed acquired to Mr. Bouteflika, reelected hands down in the first round with more than 80% of the votes since 2004, Mr. Ghediri, candidate without party, had been very discreet in recent weeks.
He is the sixth candidate to file his case, after five small candidates of which the best known is Abdelaziz Belaid, 55 years old: defector of the National Liberation Front ( FLN ), ex-party single formation of Mr. Bouteflika, he left in 2011 to create the Al-Moustakbel Front, he won 3% of the presidential vote in 2014.
The businessman Rachid Nekkaz, ubiquitous on social networks and drains crowds of young enthusiasts, said he will meet in the afternoon at the Constitutional Council.
However, he does not seem to fulfill the conditions of eligibility: if he claims to have obtained the loss of his French nationality, the electoral law provides that a candidate must never “have possessed another nationality” than Algerian.
Mr. Bouteflika’s main opponent in the 2004 and 2014 presidential elections, his former Prime Minister Ali Benflis is to announce on Sunday whether he is a candidate or not. Just like Abderrezak Makri, president and declared candidate of the Movement of the society for the peace ( MSP ), main Islamist party which broke in 2012 with the presidential alliance.