In 1956, Bouteflika joined the Army of National Liberation which was the military limb of the National liberation Front party. He received military training at the "Ecole des Cadres" in Dar El Kebdani, Morocco.
Between 1957 and 1958, as controller of the Wilaya V, he was responsible for reporting the situation at the Moroccan border and in west Algeria. He was later appointed administrative secretary of Houari Boumedienne.
In 1962, when Algeria became independent, as an influential member of Oujda group, he united with Boumedienne and the border groups, to support Ahmed Ben Bella against the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic.
He became a member of the Constituent Assembly, and subsequently, Minister for Youth and Sport in the Ahmed Ben Bella government. Iin1963, he was appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
He supported Houari Boumedienne’s military coup which successfully removed Ben Bella. He continued to be the Foreign Affairs Minister, until Boumedienne’s death in 1978.
In 1981, charged with embezzling $60 million by the Court of Financial Auditors, he claimed that he took the money for a new building for his ministry, and went into exile.
He reimbursed only 12,212,875.81 dinars, and was granted official pardon by the president Chadli Bendjedid. Returning to Algeria, the army welcomed him to the Central Committee of the National Liberation Front (FLN) in 1989.
In 1999, he was elected President with 74% of the votes, and a subsequent referendum endorsed his policies to restore peace in Algeria, especially those involving amnesties for Islamist guerrillas.
Following his re-election in 2004, he held a referendum on his "Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation", inspired by the Sant'Egidio Platform" document to put an end to twelve years of civil war.
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The charter was opposed by the chief insurgent group, the GSPC, which was accepted as a subdivision of al-Qaida, and renamed, ‘al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’, and still organizes attacks on major Algerian cities.
During his second term, The Complementary Plan for Economic Growth Support (PCSC) was drawn up. It aims to create 2 million jobs, develop infrastructure projects, and reduce external debt to $12 million.
He decided to sell 1300 public sector companies, and has already completed the privatization of 150 of them – they fall primarily in the construction material, cement, chemical industries, tourism, and food processing fields.
The foreign policy during his second term continued to focus on improving relations with Third World countries. He became the president of the Arab League in 2004, but relations with Morocco deteriorated.
In 2008, the Algerian Constitution was amended, which enhanced the powers vested in the president, who could stand for re-election any number of times. The amendment was criticized as being tailored to suit Bouteflika.
In the 2009 presidential elections, he stood as an independent candidate, and won by an incredible margin, with 90.24% voting in his favor. Many opposition parties, however, had refused to participate in the elections.
In 2013, in a cabinet reshuffle, he replaced the key interior, foreign, and justice ministers with allies who had proved their loyalty while he was in Paris recovering from a stroke.
On 18 April 2014, he was re-elected as President for the fourth time with 81% of the vote. Many opposition parties had boycotted the election, making allegations of fraud.