Angela Merkel has reportedly declined an invitation from Algerian authorities who called off in the last moment a visit by the German Chancellor last February due to the falling health of Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The Algerian press reported that Merkel was very upset with the last minute cancellation of the two-day visit during which she intended to discuss with Algerian officials means to stop the flow of migrants and speed up the repatriating of failed asylum seekers.
Merkel refused to schedule another visit to Algeria in 2017 on grounds of her “busy agenda,” writes the Algerian press.
After several months away from public appearance, renewed health rumors are fueling speculation over the future of President Bouteflika, an octogenarian leader in power for nearly two decades. Few weeks after canceling Merkel’s visit, Algerian authorities apologized to a Spanish delegation and to the Iranian President for the President incapacity to meet them.
Although President Bouteflika surfaced again on TV on Sunday, when state television featured a video footage of the President with the country’s minister for African Union and Arab League Affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, that was not enough to dispel concerns on the President’s failing health nor on uncertainties surrounding his successor. Analysts deem that the power struggle within the country’s security apparatus bode ill for Algeria as it braces for a contested or rocky succession.
Since his stroke in 2013, Bouteflika rarely makes public appearances except for short meetings with foreign officials. When he was running for presidency in 2014, his campaign was led by his Prime Minister.
Many observers saw in his re-election a time-buying measure for the rival elites within the regime to settle their disputes and agree on a successor at a time Algeria is facing big economic challenges resulting from the fall in oil prices. The juncture forced the country to take spending-cut reforms that may have serious repercussions on Algeria’s social peace.