Abdelaziz Bouteflika


Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Infobox President
name = Abdelaziz Bouteflika
عبد العزيز بوتفليقة


order = President of Algeria
primeminister = Smail Hamdani
Ahmed Benbitour
Ali Benflis
Ahmed Ouyahia
Abdelaziz Belkhadem
Ahmed Ouyahia
vicepresident =
term_start = 27 April 1999
term_end =
predecessor = Liamine Zéroual
successor =
birth_date = birth date and age|1937|03|02|df=y
birth_place = Oujda, Morocco
spouse =
party = FLN
religion = Islam(Sufi)

Abdelaziz Bouteflika (IPA2|abdəlazɪz butəflika) ( _ar. عبد العزيز بوتفليقة) (born March 2, 1937 in Oujda, Morocco) has been the President of Algeria since 1999.

Family

His father, Ahmed Bouteflika, was born in Tlemcen. Ahmed Bouteflika was married to two women: Belkaïd Rabia and Ghezlaoui Mansouriah (the mother of the current President)Fact|date=February 2007.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika was born on March 2, 1937 in Tlemcen Algeria, he was the first child of his mother and the second child of his father (Fatima, his half-sister, preceded him). Bouteflika has three half-sisters (Fatima, Yamina, and Aïcha), as well as four brothers (Abdelghani, Mustapha, Abderahim and Saïd) and one sister (Latifa). Saïd serves as Abdelaziz Bouteflika's personal physician, and is said by some to be an important figure in Bouteflika's inner circle of advisers.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been married since August 1990 and has no children. His wife, Amal Triki, is a daughter of Yahia Triki, an ex-diplomat.

Early years and War of Independence

Bouteflika lived and studied in Algeria until he joined the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) in 1956, at the age of 19. He started as a 'controller' (checking the situation and making reports on what's happening in the Moroccan border and in west Algeria), but later became the administrative secretary of Houari Boumédiène. He emerged as one of the closest collaborators of the influential Boumédiène, and a core member of his so-called Oujda group. In 1962, as independence arrived, he aligned with Boumédiène and the border armies in supporting Ahmed Ben Bella against the provisional GPRA government.

Post-independence political career

After Algeria's independence in 1962, Bouteflika became deputy of Tlemcen in the Constituent Assembly and Minister for Youth and Sport in the government led by Ahmed Ben Bella. The following year, he was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, and would remain in the post until the death of President Houari Boumedienne in 1978. Bouteflika was considered very close to Boumédiène; Ben Bella's attempt to dismiss Bouteflika in 1965 is considered the triggering factor in Boumédiène's "coup d'état" some time laterFact|date=February 2007. With Boumédiène in power, Bouteflika rose to a position of great importance within the regime.

Succession struggle and exile

On Boumédiènne's unexpected death in 1978, Bouteflika was seen as one of the two main candidates to succeed the powerful president. Bouteflika was thought to represent the party's "right wing" that was more open to economic reform and rapprochement with the West. Colonel Mohamed Salah Yahiaoui represented the "boumédiènist" left wing. [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,920107-1,00.html New Leader - TIME ] ] In the end, the military opted for a compromise candidate, the senior army colonel Chadli Bendjedid. Bouteflika was reassigned the role of Minister of State, but successively lost power as Bendjedid's policies of "de-Boumédiènisation" marginalized the old guard.

In 1981, Bouteflika was sued for having stolen Algerian embassies' money between 1965 and 1979. On 8 August 1983, he was convicted by The Court of Financial Auditors and found guilty of having fraudulently taken 60 million dinars during his diplomatic career.Fact|date=February 2007 In his defence, Bouteflika said that he "reserved" that money to build a new building for the foreign affairs ministry, but the court judged his argument to be "fallacious".Fact|date=February 2007 In 1979, just after the death of Boumédiène, Bouteflika had reimbursed 12 212 875,81 out of the 70 millions that was put in a Swiss bank.Fact|date=February 2007 Although Bouteflika was granted amnesty by the president Chadli Bendjedid, his colleagues Senouci and Boudjakdji were jailed.Fact|date=February 2007 In 1983, disgraced and with his power base stripped from him after the purges, Bouteflika left the country. He stayed in the United Arab Emirates -- reportedly serving as adviser to the royal family -- as well as in France and Switzerland. After six years abroad, he came back and rejoined the Central Committee of the FLN in 1989, after the country had entered a troubled period of unrest and disorganized attempts at reform, with power-struggles between Bendjedid and a group of army generals paralyzing decision-making. In 1992, the reform process ended abruptly when the army took power and scrapped elections that were about to bring the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front to power. This triggered a civil war that would last throughout the 1990s. During this period, Bouteflika stayed on the sidelines, with little presence in the media and no political role. In January 1994, Bouteflika allegedly refused the Army’s proposal to succeed the assassinated president, Mohamed Boudiaf; he claimed later that this was because the army would not grant him full control over the armed forces. Instead, Gen. Liamine Zeroual became President.

Elected President in 1999

In 1999, Liamine unexpectedly stepped down and announced prescheduled elections. The roots of this affair remain unclear, but it is widely claimed that his pro-reconciliation policies towards the Islamist insurgency had incurred the wrath of an éradicateur faction in the armed forces; or that some other disagreement with the military, which still dominated politics, lay behind the schism. Bouteflika ran for President as an independent candidate, supported by the military. He was elected with 74% of the votes, according to the official count. All other candidates withdrew from the election immediately prior to the vote, citing fraud concerns. Bouteflika subsequently organized a referendum on his policies to restore peace and security to Algeria (involving amnesties for Islamist guerrillas) and to test his support among his countrymen after the contested election. He won with 81% of the vote, but this figure was also disputed by opponents.

Economic policies

During his first mandate Bouteflika launched a five year economical plan (2000-2004), called the Support Plan for Economic Recovery (PSRE: Plan de Soutien à la Relance Economique). The plan was a package of various sub-plans such as the National Plan for Agricultural Development (PNDA: Plan National pour le Développement Agricole), aimed at boosting agricultural production. Other sub-plans included the construction of social housing units, roads, and other infrastructure projects. The PSRE totalled $7 billion worth of spending, and gave satisfactory results with the economy averaging higher than 5% annual growth rates, with a peak of 6.3% in the year 2003. Bouteflika also pushed through a fiscal reform which participated in the economic revival.

Foreign policy

Bouteflika was also active on the international scene, presiding over what many have characterized as Algeria's return to international affairs, after almost a decade of international isolation. He presided over the African Union in 2000 and secured the Algiers Peace Treaty between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and supported peace efforts in the African Great Lakes Region. He also secured a friendship treaty with neighbouring Spain in 2002, and welcomed president Chirac of France on a state visit to Algiers in 2003. This was intended as a prelude to the signature of a friendship treaty.

Algeria has been particularly active in African relations, and in mending ties with the West, as well as trying to some extent to resurrect its role in the declining non-Aligned movement. However, it has played a more limited role in Arab politics, its other traditional sphere of interest. Relations with the Kingdom of Morocco remained quite tense, with diplomatic clashes on the issue of the Western Sahara, despite some expectations of a thaw in 1999, which was also the year of Mohamed VI's accession to the throne in Morocco.

Second term in 2004

On April 8, 2004, he was re-elected by an unexpectedly high 85% of the vote in an election that was accepted by OSCE observers as a free and fair election, despite minor irregularities. This was contested by his rival and former Chief of Staff Ali Benflis. Several opponents alleged that the election had not been fair, and pointed to extensive state control over the broadcast media. The electoral victory was widely seen as a confirmation of Bouteflika's strengthened control over the state apparatus, and many saw the following retirement of longtime armed forces commander Gen. Mohammed Lamari in the light of this. He and military commanders allied to him were thought to have opposed Bouteflika's bid for a second term and backed Benflis. Other major military power-brokers would be reassigned to minor posts or withdraw from politics in the years that followed, underlining Bouteflika's gradual monopolizing of decision-making.

The Kabyle population boycotted the election, participation did not exceed 11%.

Reconciliation plan

During the first year of his second term, President Bouteflika held a referendum on his "Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation", inspired by the 1995 "Sant'Egidio Platform" document. Bouteflika's plan aims at concluding his efforts of ending the civil war, from a political and judicial point of view. He obtained large popular support with this referendum and has since instructed the government and Parliament to work on the technical details of its implementation. Critics claimed that the plan will only grant immunity to members of the armed forces responsible for crimes, as well as to terrorists and have argued for a plan similar to South Africa's "truth and reconciliation commission" to be adopted instead. Bouteflika dismissed the calls, claiming that each country needs to find its own solutions to ending painful chapters of its history. He has received large political support on this issue, from both the Islamist and the Nationalist camps, and from parts of the Democratic opposition.

The amnesty plan was rejected by the main remaining insurgent group, the GSPC, although perhaps as many as several hundred fighters still left their hideouts to claim amnesty. The group's warfare against the Algerian state continues despite reconciliation plan, although Bouteflika's government claims it has had an impact in removing support for the group. In 2006, the GSPC was officially accepted as a branch of al-Qaida in a video message by Ayman al-Zawahiri; soon thereafter, it changed its name to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Bouteflika has kept the amnesty option open -- apparently open-ended despite the end of the deadline stipulated by the reconciliation law -- while simultaneously pursuing the rebel group militarily. Algerian forces have scored several major captures of GSPC/AQIM commanders, but the groups top leadership remains at large, and armed activity is frequent in Kabylie, with AQIM-connected smuggling networks active in parts of the desert south. Unlike in previous years, AQIM have begun using suicide attack tactics and in 2007-2008 launched several major attacks in Algiers and other big cities.

Economic policies

The first year of Bouteflika's second term also featured a new five year plan, much larger this time drafted. The Complementary Plan for Economic Growth Support (PCSC: Plan Complementaire de la Croissance Economique) aims for the construction of 1 million housing units, the creation of 2 million jobs, the completion of the East-West 1200km long highway, the completion of the Algiers subway project, the delivery of the new Algiers airport, and other similar large scale infrastructure projects. The PCSC totals $60 billion of spending over the five year period. Bouteflika also aims to bring down the external debt from $21 billion to $12 billion in the same time. He has also obtained from Parliament the reform of the law governing the oil and gas industries, despite initial opposition from the workers unions. However, Bouteflika has since stepped back from this position, supporting amendments to the hydrocarbon law in 2006, which propose watering down some of the clauses of the 2005 legislation relating to the role of SONATRACH, the state owned oil & gas company, in new developments. It also proposes new provisions enabling the country to benefit from windfall taxes on foreign investors in times of high prices. Bouteflika has also put up for sale 1300 public sector companies, and has already achieved privatization of about 150 of them, mainly in the tourism, food processing, cement, construction material and chemical industries.

Foreign policy

On the international scene, Bouteflika's second mandate has seen diplomatic tensions rise with France due to the controversial voting by the French Parliament of a law ordering French history school books to teach that French colonisation had positive effects abroad, especially in North Africa. The diplomatic crisis which ensued has put on hold the signing of a friendship treaty with France (February 23, 2004, re-endorsed in December 2005). Ties to Russia have been strengthened by giant imports of Russian military hardware -- about 7 billion USD were spent in one single purchase -- although relations entered a rocky phase, at least temporarily, when Algeria refused to accept some MiG fighter jets due to their allegedly poor quality. Rumors of the two countries negotiating a form of cartel for natural gas, similar to OPEC's role in oil affairs, with Iran and Qatar also involved, have appeared repeatedly, and Bouteflika has confirmed an interest in the idea. (Russia is the no. 1 gas supplier to the EU, and Algeria the no. 2 supplier.) Bouteflika has also carefully cultivated a relationship with China, with exchanges of state visits between the two countries.

Algeria has remained involved in Arab affairs, and seen a somewhat growing role there. In 2004 Bouteflika also organised the Arab League Summit and became President of the Arab League for one year. His calls for reform of the League did not gain sufficient support to pass in during the Algiers summit however. Like in previous years since the late 1980s, Algeria has kept a relatively low profile in the Palestine and Iraq issues. Algeria has remained preoccupied with the Western Sahara issue, counter-lobbying Moroccan attempts to gain international acceptance for Moroccan-ruled autonomy in the disputed territory, at the expense of Polisario's (and Algeria's) calls for the long-since decided self-determination referendum to finally be held. Relations with Morocco therefore remain poor, and Algeria in 2008 repeatedly refused to answer Moroccan demands to open the common land border, which has been closed since 1994. Both Morocco and Algeria have since approximately 2005 spent several billion dollars in what could be described as an arms race between them, mainly on modernizing and expanding their air forces.

In subsaharan Africa, a major concern of Bouteflika's Algeria has been on-and-off Touareg rebellions in northern Mali. Algeria has asserted itself forcefully as mediator in the conflict, perhaps underlining its growing regional influence. Algerian interest is driven by its extensive interests in the region: smuggling routes as well as legal economic activity crosses these virtually unguarded borderlands, and refugees from the conflict have entered southern Algeria to mix with the Touareg populations there. Also, the area is known as a hideout of a southern branch of AQIM, further heightening Algeria's interest in the area. Compromise peace agreements were reached in 2007 and 2008, both mediated by Algiers. The related Touareg revolt in neighbouring Niger has not seen the same Algerian involvement, even if the anti-government MNJ movement has on at least one occasion called for Algerian mediation similar to in Mali. Algeria's involvement in Africa has otherwise been concerned with supporting the African Union, and been marked by a rapidly strengthening coordination with South Africa, which, among other things, has emerged as Algeria's main ally on the Western Sahara issue.

All in all, Algeria's foreign policy under Bouteflika remains hinged on same axis as under earlier governments, emphasizing South-South ties, especially with growing Third World powers (China, South Africa, Brazil, etc) and guarding the country's independence in decision-making visavi the West, although simultaneously striving for good trade relations and unconfrontational political relations with the EU and USA.

Hospitalization in 2005

Bouteflika was admitted to a hospital in France on 26 November 2005, reportedly suffering from a gastric ulcer hemorrhage, and discharged three weeks later. [ [http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_1852444,00.html news24.com] (author is "(SA)"), date is December 18, 2005] However, the length of time for which this normally publicity-loving leader remained virtually incommunicado led to rumours that he was critically ill with stomach cancer. [ [http://www.middle-east-online.com/ENGLISH/algeria/?id=15240 middle-east-online.com] , no author, date 2005-12-15] He checked into the hospital again in April 2006 [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4926128.stm Algeria leader in French hospital] , BBC, 20 April 2006] .

Constitutional amendment for a third term?

Bouteflika appointed a new Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, in 2006. Belkhadem then announced plans to amend the Algerian Constitution to allow the President to run for office indefinitely often and increase his powers. [ [http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=85&art_id=qw1148593502813B242 iol.co.za] , by Hassane Meftahi, May 26 2006; and [http://www.liberation.fr/page.php?Article=392253 liberation.fr] (in French)] This was widely regarded as aimed to let Bouteflika run for president a third term, and he has not denied that he plans to do so. A referendum was originally scheduled for 2007, but cancelled for reasons never explained. In 2008, Belkhadem was again shifted out of the premiership and his predecessor Ahmed Ouyahia brought in, having also come out in favor of the constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment is believed to be planned for 2008 -- before the term expires -- in the form of a referendum or a parliamentary vote. Observers predict an easy win for Bouteflika in both cases, if he manages to retain the loyalty of major powerbrokers: forces loyal to him dominate the parliament, and he had no trouble winning the presidential election in 2004 by a wide margin. Even so, the proposed amendment remains hotly debated and controversial in Algerian political circles, with many in opposition groups describing it as an undemocratic attempt to further strengthen Bouteflika's personal rule.

Notes

References

* [http://www.el-mouradia.dz/francais/president/biographie/biographie.HTM Official biography] ( [http://66.218.71.231/language/translation/translatedPage.php?tt=url&text=http%3a//www.el-mouradia.dz/francais/president/biographie/biographie.HTM&lp=fr_en&.intl=us&fr=sfp automated translation from Yahoo!] )

External links

* [http://www.el-mouradia.dz/francais/Sommaire.html Official site]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3614509.stm Profile: Abdelaziz Bouteflika] , BBC, 9 April, 2004.
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/World_Report/Story/0,2867,308125,00.html Voters and candidates give Algeria poll a miss] , Guardian, April 16, 1999, by Jacqueline de Gier
* Videos of the Black Spring: (from dailymotion.com) [http://www.dailymotion.com/bookmarks/akli2rm/video/139808] and [http://www.dailymotion.com/relevance/search/kabylie/video/297839] .


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