Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will run for a fifth term in office but vows to call for early polls if he is reelected in April, his campaign manager announced on Sunday.
A letter read by Abdelghani Zaalane on the behalf of Bouteflika — who is under treatment in the Swiss city of Geneva — said if he wins April 18 polls early elections will be held in which he would not contest.
“After the presidential elections, I will immediately ask for a national conference to discuss and adopt political, institutional, economic and social reforms to form the basis of the new reformist system of the Algerian national state,” said the letter citing the president.
Bouteflika underlined that the early presidential election will be held according to the agenda adopted by the national conference.
“I will not be a candidate in the early elections. These elections will ensure that the person who will come after me is elected in a decent and free environment,” he said.
Regarding the protests across the country over his candidacy, Bouteflika said he listened and heard the heartfelt cry of protesters and in particular of the thousands of youth who asked him about the future of the country.
“These youths express an understandable concern about the uncertainties they face. I have the duty and will to appease the hearts and spirits of my compatriots,” he added.
Bouteflika’s televised message came just after Zaalane submitted the president’s official candidacy papers to the Constitutional Council office.
According to the country’s state news agency, a total of 15 people have applied to run as presidential candidate in the election.
The application period ended on Sunday.
Last month, Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front nominated the 81-year-old Bouteflika — who has ruled Algeria since 1999 — to run for a fifth term.
Opposition leaders, for their part, have repeatedly urged the aged president, who in 2013 was treated for a blood clot in the brain, to refrain from standing again.
The Movement of Society for Peace, Algeria’s largest Islamic party, threatened earlier on Sunday to withdraw from next month’s presidential election if Bouteflika seeks a fifth term in office.
The National Liberation Front leader Ali Benflis also announced his withdrawal from presidential elections in his party meeting, saying “the current political condition in the country does not allow” him to participate.
Also, Ghani Mahdi, an independent candidate, said on social media that he officially withdrew from elections due to “bureaucratic reasons” and “lack of necessary documents.”
Separately, according to Swiss daily La Tribune de Geneve, there is no indication that Bouteflika, who has been undergoing treatment in a Swiss hospital for a week, is close to leaving.
The Swiss daily said the plane the Algerian president took to Switzerland last Sunday returned the same day to Algeria, with no announcement of its expected return, informed sources told the Swiss paper Sunday.
The same paper reported that there is no private Algerian plane scheduled to land at the Geneva airport.
Anti-Bouteflika demonstrations have since been reported in several Algerian provinces, including Annaba, Setif, Kalime, Jijel, Bejaia,Tizi Ouzou, Buira, Bumerdas, Tiaret, Relizane, Vahran and Ouargla.