President Bouteflika turned 80 on Thursday as Algerians wonder about who their president is, and whether he is healthy.
“The president has not directly addressed the Algerians since 2012. No Algerian can believe that there is not a power vacuum,” Ahmed Adhimi, a professor of political science at the University of Algiers, told AFP.
In 2012, President Bouteflika stated that he would be stepping down in 2014–the end of his third term. He suffered a stroke in 2013 and had to be taken to France for treatments. Despite the state of his health and promise to end his tenure in 2014, he contested the elections and came out victorious.
Frail and in a wheelchair, he attended the inauguration ceremony, barely reading out his speech audibly. Since then, he has been seen in public on rare occasions, prompting Algerians to question who really is in charge of Algeria.
There have been rumors that a soft internal coup, led by the President’s brother, Said Bouteflika has overtaken Algiers. There are also claims that the military is really in charge of Algeria, with the elected president actually being a ceremonial head.
When foreign diplomats or heads of state visit, the President usually receives them in his private abode in Zeralda.
Last month, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel was scheduled to visit Algiers. However, this meeting was canceled due to President Bouteflika suffering Bronchitis. This raised more doubt about President Bouteflika’s health.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who turns 80 has ruled the northern African country since 1999. Prior to that, he was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1963 to 1979.
The case of another Invisible President
Southeast of Algeria, Nigerians complain of a similar issue. However, unlike Algerians, the Nigerian president has been gone for 40 days and although the presidency claims he is doing fine, he has refused to make a televised address to the people of Nigeria.
Rather, President Buhari has resorted to making and receiving calls to and from government officials. Nigerians are however skeptical at what they deem a low attempt at deceiving the populace. Nigerians are requesting President Buhari to make a televised address in order to dispel the fears and rumors that he is sick and on the verge of death.
Nonetheless, in order to avoid the complications which arose in 2010 when former President Yar’adua took a sick leave and kicked the bucket without officially handing over power to the vice President, President Buhari handed over power to his Vice (now Acting President) Yemi Osinbajo before proceeding on his leave.