ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — In a story Jan. 17 about the runup to Algeria's presidential elections, The Associated Press incorrectly identified the name of the incumbent president's party. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is leader of the National Liberation Front, not the National Salvation Front.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Algerian election set, where are the candidates?
Algerian presidential election 3 months away, but where are the candidates?
By AOMAR OUALI and PAUL SCHEMM
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria on Friday formally set its next presidential election for April 17, but three months before what could be one of the most important votes in the country's history, no one is sure who is running.
The elections could offer a rare chance for change and new personalities in a country long dominated by aging military figures.
Ailing three-term President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, however, hasn't made clear whether he will run again. Even if the 76-year-old steps aside for a new generation, he or his military and government cohorts could have a huge influence in naming his successor.
The uncertainty before the April vote comes at a pivotal time for the country, as it faces economic turmoil, endless protests and a revival of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African branch of the terror network that grew out of the Algerian radical Islamist movement.
Algeria has always been run by the generation that fought in the 1958-1962 war for independence against France. Once the world's youngest foreign minister in the 1960s, Bouteflika took the presidency in 1999, and has dominated the country in the 15 years since.
The lack of clarity on whether he is running has kept other possible contenders from announcing their candidacies as the time for campaigning slips away. And the longer he waits, the less time they will have.
"It's the first time since the establishment of political pluralism in Algeria that the candidates ... aren't known on the eve of the convocation of the electoral body," said Mohammed Saidj, a political analyst at University of Algiers.
Bouteflika's own political party, the National Liberation Front, insists he will run for a fourth term, but there are creeping suspicions that he is just not up for it.
After he had a stroke in April, he spent four months convalescing in Paris and has appeared only sporadically on television, always seated and barely audible when he speaks. He returned Thursday after four days in a French hospital for a check-up amid rumors that he is unlikely to survive another five-year term.
"Algeria needs today a president who possesses all his mental and physical faculties to deal with the national and regional context," Abderrazzak Mukri, the leader of the Islamist opposition alliance, told The Associated Press. "Those pushing him to run are irresponsible and only see their own interests and not those of the nation."
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had been soundly beaten by Bouteflika. Now it has been reborn as a Saharan organization active in Algeria's deep south and in the little-governed areas of Mali, Niger and Libya.
In January 2013, al-Qaida linked militants stormed an Algerian natural gas plant near the Libyan border and took hostages. They were dislodged after three days by the military, but 39 foreign hostages died.
There has also been internal turmoil in this vast country of 37 million, with constant small demonstrations demanding more jobs, better services or bigger state handouts.