Algeria's ailing president sworn in for 4th term

AP News
Posted: Apr 28, 2014 9:39 AM

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Facing an increasingly united opposition calling for political changes, Algeria's president promised national reconciliation as he took his oath of office for a fourth term from his wheelchair on Monday.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 77, who suffered from a stroke last year and rarely appears in public, recited the oath in a hoarse voice and briefly thanked voters. In a speech handed out to journalists, however, he promised to continue democratic reforms and efforts at national reconciliation.

The president, in power since 1999, received more than 81 percent of the vote in the April 17 election in this key North African energy producer. Turnout at the election was 51 percent.

With Algeria facing dwindling oil reserves, high youth unemployment and the threat of al-Qaida in the southern desert, there has been worry about the president's ability to govern in light of his health problems.

The expectation is that Bouteflika's fourth term, most likely his final one, will see an effort by the powerful military and intelligence generals that hold much of the power in Algeria to find a successor.

Opposition parties, most of whom did not attend the ceremony, maintained the results were marked by fraud and are mobilizing against the government.

The parties that boycotted the election have united into one front and are calling for a national conference on May 17 to discuss a political transition. Such a transition would include changes to the constitution such as imposing term limits, increasing parliamentary power and strengthening the judiciary.

The runner-up in the election, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis, has formed his own opposition party and has been in talks with the rest of the opposition for a common platform.

"It is an excellent initiative to see the parties and politicians of different ideologies meeting and discussing a consensual political solution," said Algerian political analyst Mohammed Saidj. "But I fear the rise of the leadership problem, which has always prevented the opposition from becoming a solid credible force."