- Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has officially launched election campaign ahead of April election at the first election rally at Batna, 435 kilometres southeast of the capital Algiers.
Addressing thousands at a rally, President Bouteflika called on eligible voters to vote though none of his five rivals are expected to oust him. "You have to vote, even vote against us, even with a blank vote, but vote," Mr Bouteflika said.
The elections have come under spotlight and criticisms from both the opposition and local and international rights organisations because of a controversial amendment passed in November, which allows President Bouteflika to seek a third term in office.
Well-known opposition figures have threatened to boycot the 9 April elections saying the amendment of the constitution was meant to cement President Bouteflika’s seat in power.
As part of his campaign he has promised to pursue state investment in oil and natural gas and also to fight the high rate of unemployment with US$150 billion over the period of five years, further pledging a million new homes.
Earlier this week, the presidential candidates have expressed concern over the lack of funding from the state as the election date draws near.
The run-up to the election has been clouded by violence, with several attacks waged by terror groups on security forces over the past couple of years and especially in the past few months.
The 71-year-old president, a veteran of Algerian politics was first elected in 1999. He 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.
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