Image 1 of 7: One long legacy: Bouteflika is now considered Algeria’s longest serving (not to mention oldest!) president, surpassing former leader Houari Bouemdienne’s record as of November 2012. Bouteflika has been serving as head of state since 1999 and is the first president in the country’s history who has sought a fourth term!
Image 1 of 7: Colonial divides: Bouteflika was born to Algerian parents in Oujda, the former capital of French Morocco before the era of North African independence. The city is now considered part of present-day Morocco, and the French influence on the former colonial capital remains visible in the city’s structure and design.
Image 1 of 7: The dropout and the freedom fighter: Bouteflika was at the forefront of Algeria’s bid for independence from the French, leaving his philosophy studies to join the country’s National Liberation Front in 1957 aged 19. He led military operations along the Moroccan border and then served as an administrative secretary for the freedom movement.
Image 1 of 7: Bouteflika as “Bond”: During Algeria’s war for independence, the National Liberation Front sent Bouteflika on a spy mission to France in 1961 to contact with imprisoned leaders and fighters. With Algeria claiming independence a mere year later, his mission seemingly succeeded. No word on if he takes his Martini shaken or (not) stirred!
Image 1 of 7: The “dandy diplomat”: Bouteflika took on a new rep as a politician in the post-war period, moving away from his “freedom fighter” MO to the sophisticated, young delegate from Algeria. In global circles, Bouteflika was often described as one of the “best dressed politicians from the developing world.”
Image 1 of 7: Young leader: After serving a short stint as the country’s Minister for Youth and Sport, Bouteflika became Algeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister in 1963 at the age of 26! Bouteflika served in this post until 1978, and also served as the United Nations’ General Assembly president in 1975 as well.
Image 1 of 7: Siphoning Scandal: Bouteflika was sued in 1981 for stealing money from Algeria’s foreign embassies between 1965-1979. He claimed that the money was “being saved” to build a new Foreign Ministry, but he was found guilty. Bouteflika went into self-imposed exile until 1999, and upon return, his “debt” was erased and he came to power.
At home and abroad, Algerians are heading to the polls on Thursday to decide who will be the country’s next president. However, despite these so-called elections, many Algerians believe that the vote is already rigged in favor of the country’s incumbent 77-year old leader, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
So who is this Bouteflika character really? After all, it is not every day (actually never before) that an ailing president who is nearing 80 years of age, or any president for that matter, has ever run for a fourth term in the North African country.
With media headlines already well-versed in Bouteflika’s current “state of affairs,” ranging from the Algerian leader’s contentious privatization programs to growing health concerns since he suffered from a stroke last year, we take a look at the young(er) Bouteflika, tracing the Algerian leader’s rise to power along the way.
Take a look through this slideshow to test how well you know Algier’s Abdelaziz!