Friday, 20 Apr 2018
World

Algeria: Bouteflika, power and coffee grounds

Will Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seek a fifth term in just one year? Rumors, speculations and conjectures are going well.

The public appearances of Abdelaziz Bouteflika are so rare that, to know his intentions, Algerians (and many foreigners) are almost reduced to playing the soothsayers and reading in the coffee grounds. Each one scrutinizes and dissects the images of the Head of State broadcast by national television in the hope of discovering a hidden meaning. Or an omen to decipher.
The brief presidential escapade of Monday 9 April was no exception to the rule. Dressed in a strict three-piece suit and installed in the wheelchair without which he can hardly move, Bouteflika inaugurated the Ketchaoua mosque, an Ottoman building renovated with Turkish funds (7 million euros) and closed at public for eight years. Facing the assembled crowd, he painfully sketched a few hand gestures, but refrained from speaking. Behind him, omnipresent shadow, stood Said, his younger brother and very influential occult counselor.

His followers repeat to the envy that he knows a net renewal of form.

The head of state then went to the district of Ain Naadja, on the heights of the capital, to inaugurate an extension of the subway line undertaken in … 2005. Again, not the slightest public statement. Such an event is obviously trivial for a president in office. In the case of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, it has great political significance, everyone taking the opportunity to assess his health – he was 81 in March.
Algerian officials repeat that the head of state is currently in a net renewal of form, he is in full possession of his resources and fully able to perform his duties. The truth is that he is recovering with difficulty from the stroke he suffered on April 27, 2013. And that he lives a reclusive life in his residence in Zeralda, in western Algiers.
>>> – Read: Algeria: Guided tour of the presidential residence of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Zeralda
His public appearances are limited to the reception of foreign guests – events always high-profile – and a few Councils of Ministers. Sequelae of his stroke, his speech difficulties prevent him from speaking directly to his compatriots. He has not spoken in public since May 8, 2012.
“Great work”
Of course, his April 9 Algerian escapade revived speculation and conjecture on his political agenda and the possibility of his re-election in power following the presidential election of April 2019. The concomitance of this crowd-plunge with a statement of Djamel Ould Abbes, the secretary general of the FLN, who, on April 7, invited him to “continue his work”, obviously did not go unnoticed.
Abdelkader Messahel, the chief diplomat e, who happens to be very close to the president, is on the same wavelength: he also wants the continuation of this “grandiose” work.
In short, the idea of ​​a fifth term is in the air. Some even wonder whether the campaign has not started yet. And if the official announcement of the candidacy is more than a question of timing. So, is Bouteflika, yes or no, a candidate for his own succession?
>>> – To read: Algeria: Abdelaziz Bouteflika or time suspended
What his followers, courtiers and thurifers dream of is one thing. What he really has in mind is another. Those who know him best and have worked with him for the last twenty years are not stingy with anecdotes about his very particular conception of power and his almost obsessive desire to stay there as long as possible.
They tell how much this political animal can be unpredictable, mysterious, confusing. How much he has the cult of secrecy, of which he has made the essential element of his art of governing. Nobody forgot that in 2014 he had kept up the suspense about his presidential intentions.
He could do the same this year. What will the future be like? To find out, do not throw the marc off your coffee!

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