Country Risk

Algerian president's demonstrable infirmity likely to accelerate contest for a successor ahead of 2019 election

30 March 2017

Key Points

  • Bouteflika is most likely to be succeeded by a continuity candidate, reducing the likelihood of a damaging power struggle among the elite.
  • Even in the event of a candidate committed to change, economic reforms would come slowly given Algeria's entrenched vested interests.
  • Regardless of the succession debate, Algeria is likely to see a sharp increase in the frequency of protests and riots over the next two years.


IHS Markit examines the potential candidates likely to emerge to succeed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in office since 1999.

Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika applauds after taking the oath of president of Algeria on 28 April 2014. He remained in his wheelchair. (PA)Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika applauds after taking the oath of president of Algeria on 28 April 2014. He remained in his wheelchair. (PA)

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was filmed meeting Minister of the Maghreb, African Union, and Arab League Affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, on 19 March. This marked his first public appearance in several weeks following medical treatment in France. The president did not speak, and did not appear to engage with Messahel.

Despite statements from officials claiming that Bouteflika will run again in 2019 (and beyond), IHS Markit assesses that this is unlikely. The president's health has declined to a level that is now demonstrably impeding his ability to do the job, as shown by recent cancelled meetings with foreign dignitaries including German chancellor Angela Merkel, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, and Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis.

The ruling elite that governs Algeria is not committed to the preservation of Bouteflika's rule at any cost, but rather to protect their own interests. In the absence of any plausible consensus candidate, Bouteflika stood in 2014 for a fourth term as a holding option to provide further time to determine his succession. With the presidency subsequently having succeeded in removing its main political rival, the state intelligence service, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (Direction du Renseignement et de la Sécurité: DRS), there is now an increased likelihood of agreement on a replacement candidate among the remaining interest groups that comprise Algeria's governing elite, which includes the army, political parties, trade unions, and business groups.

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