* Bouteflika plans constitutional reforms if wins
* Measures also proposed to tackle bureaucracy
* Aging leader widely expected to win April 17 vote
By Hamid Ould Ahmed
ALGIERS, March 18 Algerian President Abdelaziz
Bouteflika plans to amend the constitution to strengthen
democracy and introduce reforms to reduce state bureaucracy
should he be reelected in next month's vote, his campaign
manager said on Tuesday.
The announcement by former premier Abdelmalek Sellal gave
some idea of the campaign platform of the 77-year-old leader,
who is widely expected to win another five-year term in the
April 17 election despite questions about his health.
Bouteflika has hardly been seen in public since suffering a
stroke last year, but has registered his candidacy and Sellal
has resigned as prime minister to run his campaign.
"The constitution will be revised to consolidate the system
and allow more democracy and more respect for all institutions,"
Sellal told Algeria's major business association at a conference
to promote Bouteflika's election programme.
Sellal gave few details about proposed constitutional
reforms or when that would happen. But Bouteflika's allies have
for months touted a possible constitutional reform to create a
vice president post to support the president.
Speaking ahead of the start of campaigning on March 23,
Sellal also told businessmen Bouteflika would combat "the
dictatorship of bureaucracy" to attract investment and give a
boost to the OPEC producing country's oil-reliant economy.
Bouteflika, backed by the ruling National Liberation Front
or FLN party, army factions and unions, is credited by loyalists
for restoring peace after a conflict with Islamist militants
that killed around 200,000 in the 1990s.
QUESTION MARK OVER HEALTH
The presidency and the military establishment are still the
most powerful institutions in Algeria, while the North African
state's parliament role is weak despite a shift to a multi-party
system in late 1980s.
Since independence from France in 1962, observers say,
Algerian politics has been dominated by FLN elites, business
leaders and military generals who tussle for influence behind
the scenes, leaving opposition parties on the outside.
With few opposition parties able to challenge him, the
president is expected to win easily. But his opponents are
questioning whether he is even in good enough health to campaign
and govern for the next five years.
A stable election or transition of power in Algeria comes at
a sensitive time with neighbours Libya, Tunisia and Egypt still
overcoming the instability that followed their 2011 Arab Spring
revolts to oust long-term leaders.
Political protests are rare in Algeria, but Bouteflika has
also ordered heavy spending from the oil earnings on housing,
public services and other basic infrastructure to counter any
potential social unrest.
But riots over jobs and subsidised houses are still common,
and the economy is heavily reliant on energy due state
bureaucracy and a lack of foreign investment in non-oil sectors.
"We will continue to support investments without harming the
social gains of Algerians," Sellal said, defending Bouteflika's
economic programme for the next five years without giving any
"Algeria has suffered a dictatorship of bureaucracy since
independence. The five-year plan will strengthen national
economy and give a boost to our industrial development."