Bouteflika’s 5th Term Would Be Another “Hogra” to Algerian People (Financial Times)
A fifth term for Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika would be viewed as an insult and a mark of contempt (hogra) for the Algerian people, said the Financial Times in a column focusing on the deepening political crisis in the country and growing social woes.
Even if, for now, the anger of Algerian people is dormant, there is no cause for complacency.
“The study of Algerian politics has something of seismology about it. There is no doubt that there is an underlying volcano,” wrote the daily’s editorial board in the column published Sunday, adding the volcano could eventually erupt anytime, as there are great numbers of unemployed young people living in despair.
For nearly 20 years President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has kept the lid on at the head of an opaque and repressive regime, which also happens to be a vital energy supplier to Europe, added FT.
But since suffering a stroke five years ago, he has been physically incapacitated. He is rarely seen in public and is never heard. At his most recent outing Mr. Bouteflika was in a wheelchair, staring vacantly, looking decidedly frail, explained the daily.
Yet the secretive cabal around him appear intent on wheeling him out in this advanced state of ill health for a fifth five-year term as president at elections due early 2019, added the newspaper, saying that this would be another act of extreme “hogra” of the Algerian people by the abusive ruling regime.
Algeria has had too much tragedy. Blessed with abundant natural resources, and youthful workforce, the country ought to be thriving. But, as elsewhere, oil and gas revenues have turned Algeria into a rentier state, deplored the Financial Times.
The resulting stagnation of the economy is compounded by the political paralysis that has set in since the end of the dark 1990s, when the annulment of the first free and fair elections set off a vicious war between Islamists and the army. Fresh memories of those horrors may have helped forestall upheaval in Algeria in 2011, when populations across the Arab world were rising up against their autocratic leaders, explained the FT.
Keeping Mr. Bouteflika as a figurehead president, who will be rubber-stamped into a fifth term postpones what could be a dangerous succession battle, said the Daily, warning that a fresh fall in energy prices would pitch the economy into crisis, testing the regime’s ability to buy the peace.
But no one is fooled in Algeria into thinking the president in his current health is anything other than a figurehead for the shadowy figures around him who really run government affairs, added the FT.
By putting an absentee & ailing president up for election at a time the nation is desperate for rejuvenation, the authoritarian regime is delivering a cynical message to Algerian people: that their hopes and frustrations do not matter.