Algeria's ageing President Bouteflika to head to Switzerland for medical 'checks'

Algeria's ageing President Bouteflika to head to Switzerland for medical 'checks'
Algerian President Bouteflika, whose expected win in the April 18 elections will extend his two decade long rule, is due to go to Switzerland for 'routine checks'.
2 min read
21 February, 2019
Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is rarely seen in public since his stroke [Getty Images]

Algeria's ageing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is running for a fifth term in the April 18 elections, will head to Switzerland for "routine medical checks", his office said.

The 81-year-old will have a "short" stay in Geneva, it said in a statement carried by the government APS news agency.

Wheelchair bound Bouteflika is rarely seen in public since a 2013 stroke, yet many Algerians are predicted to vote for him again, for fear of the instability that his departure could unleash.

He regularly visits hospitals overseas, most recently in August, when he spent five days in Switzerland for unspecified tests.

Various sectors of Algeria's diverse political opposition met on Wednesday to secure a joint candidate to face the incumbent president.

Many senior opposition figures, however, were noticeably absent from the meeting and some plan to boycott the poll altogether amid accusations that the election will be rigged in favour of Bouteflika.

On February 10 Bouteflika announced he would seek a fifth term in the April elections, in a message published by state media, after he was endorsed by his party and the ruling coalition.

"Of course, I am no longer the same physical force as before -- something that I have never hidden from the people," the statement read.

"But the unwavering desire to serve... has never left me and it allows me to transcend the constraints linked to health troubles which everyone may one day face."

He will face a record number of challengers in the upcoming April election. Among Bouteflika's top contenders are former Prime Minister Ali Benflis, the runner-up in 2014 and today's main opposition candidate; influential retired General Ali Ghediri; and the leader of an Islamist party, Abderrazak Makri.

"According to the Algerian Ministry of Interior, 32 candidates have presented their nominations. But this carnival seems limited and without any serious threats to Bouteflika's rule, except perhaps for only one candidate, a former general who stands a slightly better chance," Habibulah Mohamed Lamin wrote in a piece for The New Arab.

Bouteflika is viewed as a favourite of the country's military and security apparatus, following a bloody civil war in the 1990s.