Algeria will hold a presidential election on April 18, the presidency said on Friday in a statement, but did not say whether veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika would seek a fifth term in office.
Bouteflika, 81, has been in office since 1999 and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 which bound him to a wheelchair.
Candidates have 45 days to inform the constitutional council of their intention to take part.
Will Bouteflika seek a fifth term?
Under the constitution the election date was made necessary by the expiry in April of Bouteflika’s fourth term.
Algeria’s ruling coalition and other leading figures in labour unions and the business world had previously urged him to run again for the presidency.
But there have been concerns about his health.
In December, Bouteflika, who has been wheelchair-bound since 2013, was unable to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he came to Algiers for a two-day visit due to acute flu.READ MORE: Algerian president fails to show up in Saudi crown’s visit
His last meeting with a senior foreign official was during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sept. 17. An earlier meeting with Merkel and a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte were cancelled.
Bouteflika’s supporters say his mind remains sharp, even though he needs a microphone to speak. The opposition says he is not fit to run again.
He is unlikely to face competition from within ruling circles. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, leader of the National Rally for Democracy (RND) allied to the FLN, has already said he will not run if Bouteflika goes for a fifth term.
What is at stake?
The North African country, an oil producer, avoided the major political upheaval seen in many other Arab countries in the past decade but has experienced some protests and strikes. Unemployment, especially among young people, remains high.
The economy has improved over the past year as oil and gas revenues have picked up. They account for 60 percent of the budget and 94 percent of export revenues.
The government has said it wants to diversify the economy away from oil and gas, which accounts for 60 percent of budget finances, but there has been resistance from those within the ruling elite to opening up to foreign investment.
That has left the economy dominated by the state and firms run by business tycoons.