The presidential election race in Algeria, scheduled for December 12, will witness stiff competition among candidates who were close to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and had major roles under his rule.
If the authorities succeed in carrying out the elections on time, opposition party leaders will be absent for the first time since the first voting in 1995 with multiple candidates.
“All opposition parties and figures will be absent from the December 12 elections, which, if organized, will take place in the form of a preliminary competition among candidates,” ex-Minister of Higher Education Abdesselam Ali Rachdi wrote in his Facebook account on Monday.
Rachdi was referring to partisan and non-partisan figures belonging to the regime, who announced collecting 50,000 signatures that would allow them to run for the presidency.
This event has split Algerians. Some support holding elections under the current circumstances and others reject it.
According to opposition figures, the large number of candidates loyal to the former president suggest the country is heading for a “fifth term without Bouteflika,” in a reference to the popular movement that began in February to protest Bouteflika's candidacy for a fifth term.
One of the most prominent members of Bouteflika’s regime is former Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 72, who is linked to the “Khalifa Scandal” in 2003, which is named after businessman Abdelmoumen Khalifa who is in jail on corruption charges.
Tebboune was a minister when Khalifa amassed huge wealth. His son, Khaled, has been in prison for 18 months for his involvement in a real estate corruption case.
Tebboune is known to be the army leadership’s candidate for the elections despite the categorical denials made by Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah.
“The gang and its acolytes try to spread the idea that the army will support one of the candidates for the next presidential election,” said Gaed Salah on Sunday.
“This is a propaganda and its purpose is to disrupt the election.”
Former Minister of the National Community Abroad Belkacem Sahli is another candidate who defended the “right to participate in building my country’s future.”
Sahli, 48, supported Bouteflika and wanted him to run for a fifth term before being toppled in April. He is also the head of a small party, the National Republican Alliance.