Differences arise in Algeria over potential third term for Bouteflika
By Said Jameh for Magharebia in Algiers – 18/12/07
Severe differences have arisen among the parties of Algeria's presidential coalition over Prime Minister and National Liberation Front (FLN) chairman Abdelaziz Belkhadem's call for support of a third term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Belkhadem has also threatened to dissolve the coalition if fellow ruling parties National Rally for Democracy (RND) and Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) do not support his party's initiative.
Belkhadem's remarks – made December 9th on Algerian television – have sparked heated debate in Algeria's political circles over the future of the current ruling coalition. In his statement, Belkhadem said the future of the current coalition depends on its support of the constitutional amendment necessary for a potential third presidential term.
MSP Chairman Bouguerra Soltani accused Belkhadem of resorting to scare tactics, saying the actions threatened the presidential coalition even before learning the parties' positions on a third term.
MSP leaders are agreed in their opposition to the prime minister's declaration. Party Vice-Chairman Abderezak Mokri said Belkhadem "was not the custodian of the coalition; he can't decide its fate alone."
RND Secretary-General Ahmed Ouyahia said his party would not oppose President Bouteflika's campaign for a third term. He expressed his resentment, however, over the FLN's handling of the situation.
Many politicians from parties outside the coalition oppose the proposed changes to the Constitution.
The Algerian National Front (FNA), which became the third-largest political force in the country after the local elections of November 29th, has publicly come out against a third term.
The Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) has also opposed FLN's attempt to keep President Bouteflika in office, saying it would perpetuate unilateralism and strike a blow to the principle of peaceful transition of power.
RCD party official Hamid Lounaouci said Bouteflika's run for a third term would constitute the "obliteration of the meaning of political practice in Algeria."
Notably, President Bouteflika has not yet declared his intention to run, or whether he would support the necessary changes to the constitution.
However, it is widely believed that he will seek to amend the constitution. Local media have announced that parliament will hold a special session early next year to review Article 74 of the current constitution, which states that the Algerian president serves for five years, and may be re-elected just once.
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