Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Arabic pronunciation: [ʕaːbd lʕziz butfliqaː]; Arabic: عبد العزيز بوتفليقة) (born 2 March 1937) is an Algerian politician who has been the fifth President of Algeria since 1999. He presided over the end of the bloody Algerian Civil War in 2002, and he ended emergency rule in February 2011 amidst regional unrest.
He has also served as president of the United Nations General Assembly.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika was born on 2 March 1937 in Oujda, Morocco.  He was the first child of his mother and the second child of his father (Fatima, his half-sister, preceded him). His father (Ahmed Bouteflika) and mother (Mansouria Ghezlaoui) originated from the region of Tlemcen. Bouteflika has three half-sisters (Fatima, Yamina, and Aïcha), as well as four brothers (Abdelghani, Mustapha, Abderahim and Saïd) and one sister (Latifa). Saïd serves as Abdelaziz Bouteflika's personal physician, and is said by some to be an important figure in Bouteflika's inner circle of advisers.
Early years and War of Independence
Bouteflika was raised in Oujda, where his father had emigrated as a youngster. He successively attended three schools there: "Sidi Ziane", "El Hoceinia" and the "Abdel Moumen" high-school, where he reportedly excelled academically. He was also affiliated with Kadiri Zaouia in Oujda.
In 1956, Bouteflika went to the village of Ouled Amer near Tlemcen and subsequently joined—at the age of 19—the Army of National Liberation which was a military branch of the National liberation Front party. He was militarily instructed at the "Ecole des Cadres" inDar El Kebdani, Morocco. In 1957–1958, He was designated a controller of the Wilaya V, making reports on the conditions at the Moroccan border and in west Algeria, but later became the administrative secretary of Houari Boumédienne. He emerged as one of the closest collaborators of the influential Boumédienne, and a core member of his Oujda group. In 1962, at the arrival of independence, he aligned with Boumédienne and the border armies in support of Ahmed Ben Bella against the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic.
Post-independence political career
After Algeria's independence in 1962, Bouteflika became deputy of Tlemcen in the Constituent Assembly and Minister for Youth and Sport in the government led by Ahmed Ben Bella. The following year, he was appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and would remain in the post until the death of President Houari Boumédienne in 1978.
He was also President of the 29th UN General Assembly in 1974 and that of the Seventh special session in 1975. While in these posts he came in for severe criticism from US for what were regarded as politically partisan decisions.
In 1981, he was sued for having stolen Algerian embassies money between 1965 and 1979. On the 8th of August 1983, Bouteflika was convicted by The Court of Financial Auditors and found guilty of having fraudulently taken 60 million dinars during his diplomatic career.
In his defence Bouteflika said that he reserved that money to build a new building for the foreign affairs ministry, the court judged his argument as fallacious. In 1979, just after the death of Boumédiène, Bouteflika reimbursed 12 212 875, 81 out of the 70 millions that was put in a Swiss bank. Although Bouteflika was granted amnesty by the president Chadli Bendjedid, his colleagues Senouci and Boudjakdji were jailed.
After the amnesty, Bouteflika was given back his diplomatic passport, a villa where he used to live but did not own, and all his debt was erased. He never paid back the money "he reserved for a new foreign affairs ministry's building".
Succession struggle and exile
On Boumédienne's unexpected death in 1978, Bouteflika was seen as one of the two main candidates to succeed the powerful president. Bouteflika was thought to represent the party's "right wing" that was more open to economic reform and rapprochement with the West. Colonel Mohamed Salah Yahiaoui represented the "boumédiennist" left wing. In the end, the military opted for a compromise candidate, the senior army colonel Chadli Bendjedid. Bouteflika was reassigned the role of Minister of State, but successively lost power as Bendjedid's policies of "de-Boumédiennisation" marginalized the old guard.
After six years abroad, the army brought him back to the Central Committee of the FLN in 1989, after the country had entered a troubled period of unrest and disorganized attempts at reform, with power-struggles between Bendjedid and a group of army generals paralyzing decision-making. In 1992, the reform process ended abruptly when the army took power and scrapped elections that were about to bring the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front to power. This triggered a civil war that would last throughout the 1990s. During this period, Bouteflika stayed on the sidelines, with little presence in the media and no political role. In January 1994, Bouteflika is said to have refused the Army’s proposal to succeed the assassinated president, Mohamed Boudiaf; he claimed later that this was because the army would not grant him full control over the armed forces. Instead, General Liamine Zéroual became President.
First term as President, 1999–2004
In 1999, Zéroual unexpectedly stepped down and announced early elections. The reasons behind his decision remain unclear, but it is widely claimed that his pro-reconciliation policies towards the Islamist insurgency had incurred the wrath of a hard-line faction in the armed forces; or that some other disagreement with the military, which still dominated politics, lay behind the schism. Bouteflika ran for President as an independent candidate, supported by the military. He was elected with 74% of the votes, according to the official count. All other candidates withdrew from the election immediately prior to the vote, citing fraud concerns. Bouteflika subsequently organized areferendum on his policies to restore peace and security to Algeria (involving amnesties for Islamist guerrillas) and to test his support among his countrymen after the contested election. He won with 81% of the vote, but this figure was also disputed by opponents.
During his first mandate Bouteflika launched a five year economic plan (2000–2004), called the Support Plan for Economic Recovery (PSRE: Plan de Soutien à la Relance Economique). The plan was a package of various sub-plans such as the National Plan for Agricultural Development (PNDA: Plan National pour le Développement Agricole), aimed at boosting agricultural production. Other sub-plans included the construction of social housing units, roads, and other infrastructure projects. The PSRE totalled $7 billion worth of spending, and gave satisfactory results with the economy averaging higher than 5% annual growth rates, with a peak of 6.3% in the year 2003. Bouteflika also pushed through a fiscal reform which contributed to the economic revival.
Bouteflika was also active on the international scene, presiding over what many have characterized as Algeria's return to international affairs, after almost a decade of international isolation. He presided over the African Union in 2000 and secured the Algiers Peace Treatybetween Eritrea and Ethiopia, and supported peace efforts in the African Great Lakes region. He also secured a friendship treaty with neighbouring Spain in 2002, and welcomed president Chirac of France on a state visit to Algiers in 2003. This was intended as a prelude to the signature of a friendship treaty.
Algeria has been particularly active in African relations, and in mending ties with the West, as well as trying to some extent to resurrect its role in the declining non-Aligned movement. However, it has played a more limited role in Arab politics, its other traditional sphere of interest. Relations with the Kingdom of Morocco remained quite tense, with diplomatic clashes on the issue of the Western Sahara, despite some expectations of a thaw in 1999, which was also the year of King Mohamed VI's accession to the throne in Morocco.
Second term as President, 2004–09
On 8 April 2004, he was re-elected by an unexpectedly high 85% of the vote in an election that was accepted by OSCE observers as a free and fair election, despite minor irregularities. This was contested by his rival and former Chief of Staff Ali Benflis. Several opponents alleged that the election had not been fair, and pointed to extensive state control over the broadcast media. The electoral victory was widely seen as a confirmation of Bouteflika's strengthened control over the state apparatus, and many saw the following retirement of longtime armed forces commander Gen. Mohammed Lamari in the light of this. He and military commanders allied to him were thought to have opposed Bouteflika's bid for a second term and backed Benflis. Other major military power-brokers would be reassigned to minor posts or withdraw from politics in the years that followed, underlining Bouteflika's gradual monopolizing of decision-making.
During the first year of his second term, President Bouteflika held a referendum on his "Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation", inspired by the 1995 "Sant'Egidio Platform" document. Bouteflika's plan aims at concluding his efforts of ending thecivil war, from a political and judicial point of view. He obtained large popular support with this referendum and has since instructed the government and Parliament to work on the technical details of its implementation. Critics claimed that the plan will only grant immunity to members of the armed forces responsible for crimes, as well as to terrorists and have argued for a plan similar to South Africa's "truth and reconciliation commission" to be adopted instead. Bouteflika dismissed the calls, claiming that each country needs to find its own solutions to ending painful chapters of its history. He has received large political support on this issue, from both the Islamist and the Nationalist camps, and from parts of the Democratic opposition.
The amnesty plan was rejected by the main remaining insurgent group, the GSPC, although perhaps as many as several hundred fighters still left their hideouts to claim amnesty. The group's warfare against the Algerian state continues despite reconciliation plan, although Bouteflika's government claims it has had an impact in removing support for the group. In 2006, the GSPC was officially accepted as a branch of al-Qaida in a video message by Ayman al-Zawahiri; soon thereafter, it changed its name to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Bouteflika has kept the amnesty option open – apparently open-ended despite the end of the deadline stipulated by the reconciliation law – while simultaneously pursuing the rebel group militarily. Algerian forces have scored several major captures of GSPC/AQIM commanders, but the groups top leadership remains at large, and armed activity is frequent in Kabylie, with AQIM-connected smuggling networks active in parts of the desert south. Unlike in previous years, AQIM have begun using suicide attack tactics and in 2007–2008 launched several major attacks in Algiers and other big cities.