Leaders from Algeria‘s diverse opposition parties have failed to agree on a joint candidate to face incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the April 18 presidential election.
A five-hour meeting on Wednesday, organised by the Islamist Justice and Development Front party (MRN), ended with participants unable to choose a candidate to take on Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999.
Other attendees included Abderrazak Makri, leader of the Islamist Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), former Prime Ministers Ali Benflis and Ahmed Benbitour as well as a plethora of other smaller parties.
A joint statement reiterated the need to overcome political differences and field a single candidate but said the representatives needed time to consult their party hierarchies.
The group also lauded protests that have taken place in different cities across the country, saying they “reflected the people’s awareness.”
Severely ill and wheelchair-bound since suffering a stroke in 2013, the 81-year-old Bouteflika has made few public appearances during his fourth term in office, leaving the question open as to who is running the country.
“The opposition is facing a historic challenge, and it must meet it because this presidential election is a turning point in the destiny of Algeria,” said MRN spokesman Lakhdar Benkhellaf.
But analysts say the opposition is too weak and fragmented to vote Bouteflika – whose ruling National Liberation Front has governed the country since independence in 1962 – out of office.
Ali Ghediri, a retired army general running for the top position, announced earlier in the week he would not take part in the meeting, dealing a new blow to the bloc, which lacks ideological coherence and a shared vision for the country.
Some senior opposition figures plan to boycott the vote altogether amid accusations that the political deck is already stacked in favour of the incumbent.