President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’ health has deteriorated since he had a stroke and was taken to the French hospital of Val de Grace in April 2013. He is leading the country without the benefit of speech, mobility, and most importantly – youth. If he were a reasonable man, he would have resigned in 2013 or simply stayed out of the 2014 Presidential race but expecting a man who amended a constitution to stay in power to be reasonable is expecting too much. Here is a very unreasonable man who wants to rule to the grave.
In 2017, something unprecedented and embarrassing happened in Algeria. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nigerian President Mohammed Bukhari, South African President Jacob Zuma, Chinese President Shi Jean Ping, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Indonesian President Goku Widodo, Tunisian President Béji Caid Sibsi and the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah cancelled visits to Algeria on account of the Algerian President’s ill-health. Opposition parties called for Bouteflika to step down but the calls fell on deaf, selfish ears. This obstinacy from Bouteflika and his cronies has started to look ridiculous. The country’s Prime Minister was not even in the least, embarrassed to say, “We all know that President Bouteflika’s state of health isn’t the same as it was in previous elections, but since 2014, we have not noticed that his illness was an obstacle in fulfilling his constitutional prerogatives.”
Nourredine Bessadi’s appraisal of Bouteflika’s record captures the reality of this disaster: “Today, Bouteflika is a very sick person whose image of a president hanging on his chair did not fail to belittle the image of Algeria on an international scale. Thus, despite the positive points on the social level, it is clear that the overall record is disastrous.”
Now, in 2019, the man who is clearly not getting better has decided to run for office. It smacks of Mugabe-esque despotism designed to stick till a coup or death. It is a special kind of self-obsession to believe only he can effectively lead Algeria even when he is not at his best. The ruling coalition is telling Algerians that 82-year-old Bouteflika, paralyzed Bouteflika, absent Bouteflika and invalided Bouteflika is still better equipped to lead than the rest of able-bodied Algerians. It is laughably delusional and sad.
There have been claims that he is now just a puppet with vultures pulling his strings. An opposition party, Movement for the Society of Peace, has clearly said, “His candidacy for a fifth mandate is not in his interest but in the interests of those who benefit from this situation.” There is truth in the attack. There is even more truth in the stark warning that, “They will take full responsibility for what will come… and dangers that threaten the country.”
Algeria goes to the polls on the 18th of April this year.