Algeria’s president eases to third term

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika arrives to cast his vote at a school in Algiers.
Incumbent leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika has won a third term in office after a landslide victory in Algeria’s presidential election, media reports said Friday.

Bouteflika’s victory came despite calls from his political opponents for voters to boycott the polls. They claim the election was a charade, with the other presidential candidates — from left-wing parties to Islamists — standing no real chance. The 72-year-old was elected with over 90 percent of the vote, quoted the official in charge of organizing Thursday’s presidential election as saying. “Bouteflika has won … 90.24 percent of the votes cast,” Interior Minister Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni told a news conference. Algerian lawmakers, most of them loyal to the president, cleared the way for him to stand for re-election last year by abolishing constitutional term limits. Critics said that would allow him to serve as president-for-life. Supporters of Bouteflika say he deserves credit for steering the North African country, an oil and gas producer, back to stability after a bloody civil conflict in the 1990s that killed an estimated 150,000 people. But critics say he is using the threat of renewed violence from Islamic militants to mask the country’s deepening economic problems. “I continue to regard the restoration of civil peace as a national priority, as long as hotbeds of tension and pockets of subversion survive,” Bouteflika, running for a third term, said in his final campaign speech on Monday, reported. He has also promised to spend $150 billion on development projects and create 3 million jobs, his remedy for an economy in which energy accounts for about 96 percent of exports but where other sectors have been choked by red tape and under-investment.