ALGIERS Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the ageing independence veteran who suffered a stroke last year, has registered his candidacy for April's election, the state news agency APS said on Monday.
Bouteflika's registration at the Constitutional Council - a formal step for his candidacy - ended months of speculation over his intentions. But opposition leaders say they believe the president, who just turned 77, is still too ill to govern.
Algeria's prime minister had already announced a week ago that Bouteflika would run again, with loyalists praising the president as the man who can provide stability after helping bring Algeria out of its 1990s civil war with armed Islamists.
Private Ennahar television, which is close to the presidency, showed images of Bouteflika in the back of a black limousine before entering the council. He has rarely been seen in public since returning from France last year following the stroke that put him in a Paris hospital for months.
Even if he is still recovering, Bouteflika is almost assured of a win in the April 17 vote with the backing of the ruling National Liberation Front party and its allies who, along with the military, have dominated politics since the North African state won independence from France in 1962.
Opposition parties, which are still weak and divided, say there are still doubts about his health. A second hospital visit for checkups in January stirred another round of succession speculation.
In the short term, another Bouteflika mandate means stability for a major European energy supplier and partner in a U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militants in a region facing unrest after the 2011 revolts in other North African nations.
But oil companies are keen to see what terms will be an offer in a new energy bidding round for the OPEC member later this year, and Algeria needs reforms to entice investors to its economy after years of centralized state control.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Mark Heinrich)