- Algerian parliament has endorsed a constitutional amendment to end presidential term limits, a move paving a way for president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a third term in 2009 general elections.
A joint sitting of Algerian national assembly and senate voted 500 out of 529 on Wednesday to adopt five changes to the constitution. Twenty-eight voted against the changes, while one person abstained, reports said.
Supporters of Mr Bouteflika said he is best placed to continue to rebuild Algeria, which suffered a civil war in 1990s that claimed more than 150,000 people during the conflict.
Mr Bouteflika's political allies have appealed to president to run for another term, saying that he is the only candidate who possesses enough skill and international weight to preside over the country.
"This is a historic day for Algeria," said president Bouteflika in a letter read to lawmakers after the vote broadcast live on national radio, stating that reform will enshrine democracy and durable institutions.
Opposition politicians have rallied against making changes to the constitution, saying that presidential office already has broad control of the courts and legislature.
Critics said reform was a step away from democracy and favoured political and military elite that have long held power in this oil- and gas-rich North African country.
They said changes should have gone through a national referendum rather than parliament, which is strongly allied with the president.
They also viewed decision to go through parliament as a sign government knew the measure would not muster popular support.
Reports said several opposition leaders have boycotted legislative elections because of widespread fraud allegations, while others said a huge recent salary increase for lawmakers helped smooth passage for elimination of two-term limit.
The 71-year-old president, a veteran of Algerian politics, was first elected in 1999.
Mr Bouteflika has overseen a return to relative peace, though there has been a series of suicide bombings over last two years blamed on militants linked to al-Qaeda.
Algeria is a major producer of oil and gas and has launched an ambitious economic development programme using profits from sale of hydrocarbons.
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