ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is running for re-election on April 17, despite suffering a stroke last year. He is seen by supporters as a symbol of stability after he helped to lead Algeria out of a civil war that lasted more than a decade.
Here are some facts about Bouteflika.
* Born on March 2, 1937, Bouteflika was a veteran of Algeria's war for independence from France. He served as foreign minister for 16 years until 1979.
* After the death of President Houari Boumedienne, his fortunes waned, and he went into self-imposed exile in 1981 to escape corruption charges that were later dropped. He returned to Algeria in 1987.
* Bouteflika won the presidency in 1999 with the backing of the army. He promised to end violence with Islamist rebels that had begun after the cancellation of a 1992 parliamentary election that an Islamic party was set to win.
* In 2004, Bouteflika became the only Algerian head of state to be re-elected in democratic polls since independence in 1962.
* In 2009, Bouteflika took 90 percent of the vote in a presidential election to win a third five-year term as leader. An opposition party which had called for a boycott of the poll alleged fraud on an "industrial scale" and a newspaper reported rioting east of the capital - a reminder of the anger over poverty and unemployment felt in parts of the country.
* Bouteflika overcame years of isolation for Algeria, welcoming a succession of foreign heads of state and government to Algiers, but his socialist-oriented policies failed to wean the economy off its reliance on oil and gas.
* Bouteflika, seeking to prevent opposition calls for protests from building momentum, promised more democratic freedoms and ordered new job-creation measures. He also said that a ban on protest marches would remain despite lifting the emergency rule in February 2011, however.
* He described France's 130-year rule as barbaric and urged Paris to apologise for massacres of Algerians, but underwent medical checks in France in 2006. He was operated on there for a stomach ulcer in December 2005; leaked U.S. diplomatic cables suggested he had cancer.
* Bouteflika was rushed to hospital in France suffering from a stroke in 2013 and returned to Algeria in July to convalesce. Bouteflika is widely expected to win this month's presidential election but has left his former prime minister and other loyalists to campaign for him.
* He has rarely spoken or been seen in public since his illness. If he cannot continue, there is little clarity on who might take over Africa's biggest country, an OPEC oil producer which supplies a fifth of Europe's gas imports and cooperates with the West in combating al Qaeda-style militancy.
(Editing by Patrick Markey and David Stamp)