ALGIERS - Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika appointed Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi as interim premier on Thursday, as outgoing Abdelmalek Sellal was formally tasked with running the ailing president's campaign for re-election next month.
ALGIERS – Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika appointed Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi as interim premier on Thursday, as outgoing Abdelmalek Sellal was formally tasked with running the ailing president’s campaign for re-election next month.
The mini cabinet re-shuffle, which also saw former premier Ahmed Ouyahia named director of the president’s office, came just weeks ahead of the election, which is likely to see the 77-year-old president secure a fourth term, despite serious concerns about his health.
The decision to put the current prime minister in charge of Bouteflika’s re-election campaign was widely expected.
Sellal was closely involved in the two previous election campaigns that returned the president to power, in 2004 and 2009, and has spent much of the past year travelling around the country defending Bouteflika’s track record.
Another former prime minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, was named special adviser to the president, according to the statement from Bouteflika’s office.
Earlier, six candidates including Bouteflika were approved to run in the April 17 leadership contest, the head of a constitutional panel announced.
Mourad Medelci, in a statement read out on public radio, listed the other candidates as Abdelaziz Belaid, Ali Benflis — an independent who is considered the main challenger to Bouteflika — Moussa Touati, Louisa Hanoune and Ali Fawzi Rebaine.
The panel ruled out six other hopefuls.
Campaigning officially begins on March 23 and will last until April 13.
There is growing anger and derision in Algeria over Bouteflika’s decision to run, due to his fragile health, with many critics arguing that he is in no fit state to run the country.
Hospitalised for three months in Paris last year after suffering a mini stroke, he has spoken in public only once in the past two years, and appears frail, and invariably seated, on the very rare occasions when he has been seen in public.