(Reuters) – Algeria faces a presidential election on Thursday that is rejected by the opposition.
These are some of the main players.
Algeria’s army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah has become the most powerful figure in Algeria this year.
Born in 1940, he fought in Algeria’s war of independence from France and cemented his role as a top general in the 1990s civil war, before then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika named him army chief in 2004.
Though the military has long been at the center of the Algerian state, it has used the protests to purge rival factions including the once all-powerful internal security department.
The protest movement emerged in the spring as hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated when it became clear Bouteflika would seek a fifth term.
Known as the Hirak – Arabic for ‘movement’ – the protesters have no formal leadership and organize themselves through discussions on social media.
They demand that the old guard give up power, an end to corruption, and that the military quit politics. They reject any election while the old guard retain power as meaningless.
The electoral commission, a theoretically independent body, approved five of the 23 candidates who applied to run in the election. They are:
Abdelmadjid Tebboune, once a close Bouteflika ally, was prime minister for less than three months in 2017 but was sacked when he tried to take on powerful business figures accused of corruption.
Ali Benflis, prime minister from 2000-03, ran unsuccessfully for president twice against Bouteflika.
Former culture minister Azzeddine Mihoubi, who is backed by the FLN, Algeria’s longstanding ruling party, despite its earlier statements that it would not support any candidate.
The former tourism minister, Abdelkader Begrine, had previously held a role in a moderate Islamist movement.
Abdelaziz Belaid, a former FLN central committee member, later set up El Mostakbal Movement party and was defeated by Bouteflika in the 2014 presidential election.
THE OUSTED OLD GUARD
Bouteflika, also a veteran of Algeria’s war of independence, helped end the 1990s conflict between the state and Islamist militants and was made president in 1999.
After he was pushed from power in April, his brother and de facto regent Said Bouteflika was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiring against the army.
Their main rival in the power structure, internal security chief Mohamed Mediene, was jailed alongside him.
While many other Bouteflika allies are also on trial or in prison, some of his network retain powerful positions, including interim president Abdelkadar Bensalah and prime minister Noureddine Bedoui.
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