“FLN wants the president to continue his mission he started in 1999, as head of the state,” said FLN Secretary General Djamel Ould Abbes, at a meeting with officials of his party in Algiers on Saturday.
Echoing him, Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel, a member of the FLN Central Committee, endorsed the request of Ould Abbes, saying that “under the leadership of Bouteflika, Algeria regained peace and security, and has become a reference in the field of de-radicalization, and resolution of international conflicts.”
The President is seriously ill and his voice is barely intelligible. Prior to canceling a meeting with Venezuelan President Maduro, Bouteflika’s health condition did not enable him to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had to call off her visit to Algeria last year due to the failing health of Bouteflika. Few weeks later, Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s visit was also postponed sine die.
Analysts deem that maintaining a sick President whose physical and mental capacities are shrouded in uncertainty is indicative of a power struggle within the country’s regime. The contending clans within the regime seem not in agreement over Bouteflika’s successor. Therefore, they maintain the ailing 80-year old President as a time buying measure in a sign that bodes ill for the country’s future.
Bouteflika’s health also casts a shadow on the opacity of a regime, where power is generally presumed to reside among groups of military leaders, intelligence officials, businessmen, and politicians collectively known as le pouvoir.
Algeria’s leader rarely appears in public since a 2013 stroke left him confined to a wheelchair. He has since traveled several times to France for medical treatment.
Regime opacity and the secrecy shrouding the successor to Bouteflika have also been hampering Algeria from carrying out economic reforms to wean their economy from dependence on hydrocarbons.
Uncertainty over Bouteflika’s succession adds to Algeria’s explosive mix: ailing economy, dwindling oil revenues, widespread corruption, fragile social cohesion and lingering terrorist threat, which make the country a powder keg waiting to explode.