Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Algeria deputies scrap term limit

Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Tlemcen, 12 October 2008
Abdelaziz Bouteflika says constitutional changes will deepen democracy

The Algerian parliament has approved a constitutional amendment that abolishes a two-term limit for the president.

The change opens the way for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a third term in elections due next April.

The measure was passed by 500 votes out of 529, easily surpassing the three-quarters majority needed from the session of the upper and lower houses.

Opposition parties have opposed the measure, warning that it could destroy political pluralism.

The change was one of several constitutional amendments that Mr Bouteflika says will deepen democracy.

No referendum

The 71-year-old president, a veteran of Algerian politics, was first elected in 1999.

His supporters have long pressed him to scrap the term limit and run for a third term.

They say he is the best person to consolidate Algeria's recovery from a brutal civil conflict that began in 1992.

Mr Bouteflika has overseen a return to relative peace, though there has been a series of suicide bombings over the last two years blamed on militants linked to al-Qaeda.

Algeria is a major producer of oil and gas and has launched an ambitious economic development programme using profits from the sale of hydrocarbons.

But opposition politicians say the economy remains dangerously dependent on energy sales, and that profits have not been used to improve the lives of ordinary Algerians.

They have also said the constitutional changes only serve the interests of Mr Bouteflika and his supporters in Algeria's ruling elite.

Mr Bouteflika chose to push the constitutional changes through parliament rather than putting them to a referendum, as some had suggested.

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