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Algeria parliament approves constitutional change dropping presidential term limits

[JURIST] The parliament of Algeria [CIA backgrounder] approved a constitutional amendment Wednesday that removed the law limiting the country's president to two terms in office. In a joint vote, both houses of the Algerian parliament, the Council of Nation [official website, in Arabic] and the National People's Assembly, overwhelmingly approved the amendment 500-21 with eight abstaining, which will allow current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika [official website; BBC profile] to seek a third term in 2009. The outcome of the vote was widely predicted as Bouteflika has majority support in parliament. Opposition groups, such as Rally for Culture [advocacy website, in French], have condemned the amendment as similar to a coup, asserting that it is anti-democratic. Bouteflika has not yet confirmed whether he will run for president in 2009. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage. El Khabar has local coverage.

Bouteflika was first elected president of the resource-rich north African nation in 1999, during a 13-year civil war between Islamic militants and government forces that left more than 100,000 people dead. He was re-elected in 2004 and earned nationwide praise for his efforts to unify the country with his Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation [JURIST report] which provided amnesty for those involved in the civil war and reparations for families of victims. Bouteflika has spoken about reforming the Algerian constitution [text, translated from Arabic] since he first took office in 1999. While addressing a group of magistrates last month, Bouteflika said the present amendments would promote efficiency and stability [Magharebia report] in the country.

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