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Thursday, April 15, 1999 Published at 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK

World: Middle East

Profile: The candidates who pulled out

Then there was one: A voter reads election posters

Six of the seven candidates in Algeria's presidential elections have withdrawn, leaving Abdelaziz Bouteflika a clear run at the post - but the poll in doubt.

The presidential race was triggered by President Liamine Zeroual's decision last September to step down 18 months before the end of his term.

The following are profiles of the candidates who pulled out:

Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi

Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, 67, was education minister in the 1960s when he pioneered the Arabisation of the education system.

[ image: Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi:
Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi: "Foster tolerance"
He was presidential adviser in the 1970s and foreign minister from 1982 to 1988.

In his first political broadcast, he said politicians should support pluralism and economists the free market.

Crucially, he called for the military to gradually withdraw from political life.

He is backed by the banned Islamic Salvation Front, FIS, with whom he favours dialogue.

"I shall endeavour to foster tolerance and a political culture opposed to hatred and extremism," he said at a campaign rally.

Hocine Ait Ahmed

Hocine Ait Ahmed, 73, has been dubbed the "eternal rebel" for his role in fighting French colonialism and for being a fierce opponent of successive governments in Algeria.

[ image: Hocine Ait Ahmed: Eternal rebel]
Hocine Ait Ahmed: Eternal rebel
He founded the first opposition party, the Socialist Forces Front, FFS, a year after independence in 1962.

He was arrested in 1964 but escaped from jail that year to live in exile in Switzerland until 1989 when his party was legally registered.

In his election campaign he reiterated his motto: "Neither an Islamic fundamentalist state nor a military dictatorship in Algeria".

He said economic recovery in Algeria can only be achieved by offering opportunities to Algerian and foreign investors.

The FFS holds 20 seats in the 380-member parliament, drawing most of its support from Berber-speaking areas in Kabylie and Berber-dominated Algiers.

Ait Ahmed suffered a heart attack towards the end of the campaign and was flown to Switzerland for treatment. He had intended to return for polling day.

Mouloud Hamrouche

Mouloud Hamrouche, 56, was prime minister between 1989 and 1991, during which time he began implementing political and economic reforms.

[ image: Mouloud Hamrouche:
Mouloud Hamrouche: "Respecting the people's will"
He is a leading figure in the FLN but has fallen out with its leaders over policy.

Running as an independent candidate, he claims the support of the FLN rank and file.

He also called for the army to return to barracks.

Speaking in an election broadcast, he said: "By voting en masse, you are going to force the army and security services to face up to their responsibilities by respecting the people's will".

Advocating a return to civilian law, Hamrouche said national investment would encourage foreign investment, enabling Algeria to throw off debt and IMF policies.

Abdallah Djaballah

Abdallah Djaballah, 43, was a Muslim activist in the 1970s and spent six years in jail.

[ image: Abdallah Djaballah:
Abdallah Djaballah: "National reconciliation"
Until 1998 he led the moderate Islamic Ennahda Movement from its foundation in 1989.

He was ousted by a dominant faction which wanted closer ties with the RND-dominated government.

Djaballah founded a new Islamist party, the Movement for National Reform, MNR, and called for "a government of national unity to achieve national reconciliation".

Mokdad Sifi

[ image: Mokdad Sifi: Favours market economy]
Mokdad Sifi: Favours market economy
Mokdad Sifi, 59, was prime minister between 1993 and 1995 and is a member of parliament backed by a faction of the RND opposed to Bouteflika.

In a campaign broadcast, he said he opposed a general amnesty and negotiations with "the murderers of women and children".

He favoured a market economy but said the state should remain a major player in economic and social affairs.

Youcef Khatib

[ image: Youcef Khatib: Independent candidate]
Youcef Khatib: Independent candidate
Youcef Khatib, 67, was an outspoken deputy in 1963 and put under house arrest until 1972 when he left politics.

He directed President Zeroual_s 1995 election campaign but then quit as the president_s adviser saying that Zeroual did not fulfil his election campaign promises.

He was an independent candidate.

BBC Monitoring (, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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Internet Links

World Algerian Action Coalition

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