(Adds background on resignation, election)
ALGIERS, March 13 Algerian Prime Minister
Abdelmalek Sellal resigned on Thursday, state media said, to run
the re-election campaign of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the
ageing independence leader who is widely expected to win five
more years in power.
Bouteflika, 77, registered his candidacy for the April 17
vote last week, one of the few times he has spoken in public
since suffering a stroke last year that raised opposition
questions about his ability to govern.
Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi will replace Sellal as interim
premier, state news agency APS said.
With the support of the ruling National Liberation Front
(FLN) party, unions and army factions, Bouteflika is almost
assured a win in the North African oil producer and ally in
Washington's fight against Islamist militants.
But his low profile since his illness has triggered
questions about his health, who would replace him if he is
forced to step down and even how he will campaign.
Sellal has said Bouteflika's condition is fine and loyalists
see Bouteflika as the man who saved Algeria from its 1990s war
with Islamist militants, a conflict that killed around 200,000
But Sellal did little to ease questions about Bouteflika's
health when he said this month the president would not need to
campaign himself because there were plenty who could do that for
Since independence from France in 1962, observers say
Algerian politics have been dominated by backroom negotiations
among a group of powerful FLN veterans, business leaders and
army generals known as "Le Pouvoir" or "The Power" in French.
Several opposition parties have called for a boycott of
April's vote because they say Bouteflika's candidacy and the FLN
dominance eliminates any fair competition. Other opposition
leaders say he is too sick and should step aside.
Any political handover in the key North African energy
producer would come a fragile time in the region, still
struggling with turmoil that followed the 2011 "Arab Spring"
revolts that toppled rulers in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing
by Andrew Heavens)