Ailing president Abdelmadjid Tebboune has returned to Algeria after convalescing in Germany for 60 days. It is not clear however if he has recovered or if he had to interrupt his healing process to pass the 2021 budget law to shun being incapacitated.
Tebboune, a heavy smoker, had contracted the coronavirus and had to be flown to Germany. His critics castigated him for seeking treatment abroad drawing a contrast with his statements few months earlier when he boasted that Algeria has the best health system in North Africa.
The Algerian news agency which announced his return did not offer details about his health condition. His last appearance in a video address on twitter showed that he has significantly lost weight and his voice succumbing to illness.
Algerian analysts evoked the application of Article 102 of the constitution, according to which power should go to the Upper House speaker if the President is incapacitated. The problem is that the Speaker is 93 years old himself and prone to medical issues.
The absence of the President came at a critical moment as Algeria voted with a historically low turnout of 27% for a new constitution that gives the military extensive powers including intervening outside Algeria’s borders.
His absence also takes place as the country struggles with the fallout of the coronavirus repercussions and low oil prices which will further deteriorate public finances and undermine social spending, key to Algeria’s social peace.
The sickness of Tebboune is compared to that of the former president Bouteflika who spent most of his last mandate receiving treatment abroad with very few public appearances in which his voice was barely audible. Now, Tebboun’s sickness has come to symbolize an ailing Algeria that has failed to use its massive oil wealth to lift the country from utter dependency on oil and gas.