Though the votes have not yet been counted in Thursday’s presidential election in Algeria, the result is all but decided: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will win a fourth term. Bouteflika’s long reign is unprecedented (and unconstitutional), and so is the nature of the election. The ailing and frail 77-year-old Bouteflika had not made a single public or televised campaign appearance until this month’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in which Bouteflika looked more dead than alive. Indeed, one critic, novelist Yasmina Khadra, calls Bouteflika’s government a “zombie regime.” The president — a functionary of the National Liberation Front, the party that has owned Algeria since its independence in 1962 — is entrenched, propped up by generals and an uneasy status quo. The question is, how long will the government manage to impose scripted elections on a population ready for the risks and rewards of an unscripted future?
Clearly, North Africa and Europe have a vital stake in Algeria’s stability and reliability. With its immense oil and natural gas reserves, Algeria is the European Union’s third-largest energy supplier, no small matter given Europe’s rocky relations with another energy supplier, Russia. Moreover, Algeria has the region’s largest economy, its largest population and its largest and best-trained army.
All of which contributed to Kerry’s photo op in Algeria: Bouteflika’s may be a zombie regime, but it’s our zombie regime.
Tellingly, this sentiment is shared by a number of older Algerians. Yes, Bouteflika had scarcely appeared or spoken in public since he suffered a stroke last year. But he remains the man who ended the “Black Decade,” the civil war that began in 1991 when the government canceled elections that an Islamic party was poised to win. By the end of the decade, 100,000 to 200,000 civilians had been killed.
Full Article: Algeria votes — but for what? – latimes.com.