Abdelaziz Bouteflika sworn in for fourth term as Algerian president © The Guardian 28 April 2014
Frail president makes inauguration speech after election victory dismissed by opponents as unfair.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been sworn in for a fourth term as Algeria‘s president after he won an election that opponents dismissed as unfair and returned to power for another five years.
Sitting in a wheelchair and dressed in a navy three-piece suit and crimson tie, the 77-year-old placed his right hand on the Qur’an as he repeated in a frail voice the oath read out by the head of the country’s supreme court, Slimane Boudi.
Bouteflika, who was also in a wheelchair when he cast his ballot in the 17 April, has hardly been seen in public since a stroke confined him to hospital in Paris for three months last year.
Official results showed he won 81.5% of the vote in the election marred by low turnout and fraud claims by opponents, including main rival Ali Benflis, who achieved 12.2%.
In a brief inauguration speech before senior Algerian officials, diplomats and other delegates, Bouteflika stumbled on his words as he thanked the security forces and observers for “ensuring the election was run smoothly”. He paid tribute to voters and other candidates in the election, which he hailed as a “day of celebration and democracy for Algeria”.
At the start of the ceremony, Bouteflika sat with his hands on his knees as he inspected soldiers following a display of their weapons outside the beachfront Palace of Nations in Algiers. After shaking hands with the head of a constitutional panel, Mourad Medelci, and members of his government, the president was greeted by celebratory ululations.
The 30-minute ceremony ended with a standing ovation for Bouteflika and a rendition of Algeria’s national anthem.
Bouteflika followed it up by paying tribute to those killed in the war of independence at El Alia cemetery, the final resting place of other former presidents.
The inauguration was boycotted by the opposition, including five parties which had called on their supporters to stay away from the election. Among the absentees was Benflis, who has refused to recognise Bouteflika’s re-election, saying that doing so would make him “complicit in fraud”.
One of the few remaining veterans of the war of independence against France, Bouteflika first came to power in 1999, but has been dogged by ill health and corruption scandals. He remains popular with many Algerians who credit him with helping to end a devastating civil war and contain Arab spring protests.
But many people had been clamouring for change. Algeria has witnessed more self-immolations than Tunisia since 2011 and many people express astonishment that a state with foreign exchange reserves of $182bn (£108bn) does not do more to improve their lives.
There were deadly riots in January 2011, when revolts were spreading elsewhere in the region, but the regime snuffed out the protests in Algeria with a sprinkling of political reforms and pay rises.
Bouteflika’s third term was overshadowed by speculation about his health and rumours he had died, after he underwent surgery in Paris in 2005 for a stomach ulcer. He was hospitalised in France again in April 2013 after a stroke. He chaired only two cabinet meetings that year.
He said on Monday that he would continue to seek from “international partners” backing for Algeria’s “development based on mutual support and the transfer of technology”. He promised the advent of a “diversified economy” in a country heavily reliant on hydrocarbons, which account for 97% of exports. Read more on: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/28/abdelaziz-bouteflika-algerian-president-election