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How could Abdelaziz Bouteflika, despite ill health and the belief of many Algerians that the 2014 elections would be an opportunity for change, win a fourth term as president of Algeria? Nacer Djabi’s latest paper describes how Bouteflika won nearly five million fewer votes in the 2014 elections than in previous elections (according to official figures), but was still able to use his carefully crafted connections in state institutions, private business, the media, and across the political landscape to win support for his candidacy.
Bouteflika was able to manipulate battles within the corridors of power, placing loyalists and family members in positions of influence while outmanoeuvring other powerful actors such as the intelligence chief. He also took advantage of the new media landscape to ensure immense support for his candidacy among private TV channels. Western states, for their part, expressed soft critiques of Algeria’s political process, but still seem focused on what the Bouteflika regime has been able to provide them: oil, gas, and some modicum of regional stability.
Despite all the doubts and frustrations that accompanied the electoral process, however, Djabi describes the development of new opposition coalitions that may be able to win support and channel the hopes of a frustrated population while there is still a chance for peaceful political change.