Senior business leaders, including Forum des chefs d’entreprise (FCE) head Ali Haddad and Karim Kouninef — the multi-millionaire boss of the family’s massive KouGC construction group which was founded in the 1970s by his father Reda Kouninef — have invested large sums in backing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and securing his fourth term. They are obviously desperate to reap the rewards of that investment.
Haddad has not yet been considered as a serious candidate for the presidency. He is still more of a kingmaker but that could change. Since the April 2014 election, and especially since the onset of the current economic crisis, he has made himself an indispensable appendage of government. He visits and greets foreign ambassadors and other foreign dignitaries in his own right, often without so much as a by-your-leave from the Foreign Ministry.
As head of the FCE employers’ federation, and one of the key business advisors to the government, Haddad invariably travels with Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, and with his own red carpet. He increasingly behaves as if he is the president-in-waiting, and is treated and received as the head of some sort of secret, unnamed political interest group, rather than just as the head of the FCE. Haddad may not yet be seeing himself as the future president, but he and his fellow oligarchs have a major interest in the nature of the next presidency and will do their utmost to choose and mold it to their interests.