Algeria president heads to Switzerland for new medical check-up

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika flew on Monday to Switzerland for a medical check-up, his office said, months ahead of an election with no clear successor in sight for the ailing 81-year-old.

The statement, carried by the APS news agency, gave no further details about the "routine medical check-up" in Geneva, nor did it say how long Bouteflika was expected to be out of the country.

Bouteflika has been frail since suffering a stroke in 2013, which weakened his mobility and forced him to work from his residence in Zeralda, west of Algiers.

Bouteflika has since travelled abroad several times to undergo medical examinations in Paris, the southeastern French city of Grenoble and in Geneva.

Rumours often swirl in Algeria about the state of the president's health, with opposition leaders quick to express concerns about a possible "power vacuum" if he were to die.

But with a presidential election due to take place in April 2019, politicians have already been preparing for a fifth term under Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999.

In April, the secretary general of his National Liberation Front, Djamel Ould Abbes, asked him to run for re-election.

And in June, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said his Rally for National Democracy (RND) party would support the president "continuing his mission and his sacrifice in the service of Algeria".

In 2014, the year after his stroke, Bouteflika's decision to seek a fourth term sparked criticism from those who questioned his ability to rule.

Bouteflika only makes rare public appearances, during which he is usually seen sitting in a wheelchair.

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