Algeria’s Bouteflika ‘in good health’ after stroke

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika attends a news conference in Algiers on May 25, 2010.  By Fayez Nureldine (AFP/File)

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika attends a news conference in Algiers on May 25, 2010. By Fayez Nureldine (AFP/File)

ALGIERS (AFP) – President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, hospitalised in France after suffering a mini-stroke, is in good health and will return to Algeria within a week, his doctor was quoted as saying Monday.

“The president is in very good health… He will come back to Algeria in several days… in not more than seven days,” Rachid Bougherbal told the Algerian daily Ennahar, after speaking to Bouteflika on Sunday morning.

The 76-year-old leader suffered a “transient ischaemia” on Saturday and was flown to Paris for treatment at the Val de Grace military hospital, which often receives high-profile patients.

Ennahar said Bouteflika had resisted being treated in France, but the doctor had insisted, saying the analysis and scan required were not available in Algeria.

Bougherbal, a cardiology professor, said that “every year, 400 Algerians get this type of analysis done in France.”

The doctor’s remarks came as Algerian media and analysts openly questioned the political implications of Bouteflika’s latest health scare, less than a year before a presidential election.

“The illness of the president feeds speculation,” ran the headline of the independent French-language daily El Watan.

Officials in Algeria were quick to allay fears over his condition.

But the question of a fourth presidential term for Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999 and has suffered a series of health problems since he was first elected, has come sharply into focus.

“Everything depends on the state of the president’s health… If he recovers, he will have his fourth term,” said political analyst Rachid Tlemcani, cited by El Watan.

Others argued that the latest development ended Bouteflika’s chances of running again. Rachid Grim, another political expert quoted in El Watan, said “the question of a fourth term will no longer arise. It is finished.”

Algeria’s decision-makers have already considered this scenario, he said, adding that “it would not be surprising if they pulled someone they have already prepared out of the hat.”

“The future candidate will arrive like a letter in the post,” Grim said.

An editorial in the Quotidien d’Oran said the latest deterioration in Bouteflika’s health made “undeniable… the need to question his ability to lead the country.”

“It remains for him to understand clearly that the time has come for him to step down in a serene and democratic manner,” it added.

The Soir d’Algerie, another French-language newspaper, insisted that the “current presidential term… appears to all senses like a term too many.”

Bouteflika began his current third term in 2009, after a constitutional amendment allowed him to stand again, but he has not yet indicated an intention to do so in 2014.