On the 2nd of March, Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika turned 80 and that significant age milestone brought to the fore Algeria’s unique situation of having a practically unseen President.
The unseen President of Algeria, so called because the President has hardly addressed the country since 2012 and even on occasions when he did give an address, it was not done directly.
President Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013 nearing the close of his third term as President which he had previously promised Algerians would be his last. The President was taken to France for treatments and in 2014 broke his promise, contested in the elections and came out victorious.
The President who has ruled the northern African country since 1999 after a long stint as the Minister of Foreign Affairs took to receiving foreign diplomats or heads of state in his private abode in Zeralda and was very rarely seen in public after his 2014 victory. All these have resulted in worries that the power in Algeria is actually in the hand of other individuals.
Algeria’s unseen President finally makes an appearance one month after a huge meeting was canceled
Worries were intensified when a visit by Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel which was to happen last month was canceled due to the President’s health. President Bouteflika was allegedly suffering Bronchitis.
The President finally appeared on television on Sunday for the first time since the visit by the German chancellor was canceled. Algeria’s state television showed the 80-year-old president receiving Algeria’s minister for African Union and Arab League affairs, Abdelkader Messahel.
While the TV appearance is sufficient proof that the President is alive (if not hale and hearty), it still does not answer the question of whether he is indeed still in charge or merely a ceremonial head allowing unknown powers to chart Algeria’s course.