Algerian opposition warns of holding on to President in light of his health

The deputy leader of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Sheikh Ali Belhadj, has warned of the dangers for the country by holding on to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika even while he is completely incapable of fulfilling his duties, and is unable even to speak. Algeria, said Belhadj, is being tossed towards the unknown by doing this.

Speaking to Quds Press, Belhadj suggested that the official Algerian media images of the 80-year-old President Bouteflika receiving Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were a desperate attempt to respond to the demands by Algerian politicians and military figures that Algeria’s long-serving leader should not be allowed to stand for a fifth term in office. Bouteflika has been President since April 1999.

“If you look closely at Bouteflika’s face in the broadcast video of his meeting with Medvedev,” explained Belhadj, “you can tell that he is sick because his eyes are erratic, his hand movements are very slow, and his voice is not heard at all. This is tangible proof that the president is sick and incapable of leading the country,”

The FIS official, who is banned from being involved in politics, pointed out that the Algerian regime chooses the personalities with whom the President appears. “This includes Russian leaders who are his allies as well as his teachers in misleading the people, including the Russian people themselves.” For that reason alone, he added, the images which were broadcast cannot confirm that Bouteflika is healthy and capable of fulfilling his duties.

Read: Algerian president makes rare public appearance

According to Belhadj, the Algerian regime responded to the demands of national figures to save the country through statements made on Tuesday by the Deputy Minister of National Defence. Lieutenant General Ahmed Qaied Saleh, who is also the Chief of Staff of the National Popular Army, confirmed Algeria’s determination to build a strong, modern and developed armed forces.

“This is a threatening message to the Algerian people as well as a warning to take seriously the calls of national figures who are rejecting the idea of Bouteflika ruling for another term,” explained the FIS deputy leader.

Our armies in the Arab countries are not trained to fight the enemy, but to fight their own people and empower corrupt regimes by using force.

He called on the “wise men” of Algeria to collaborate in order to save their country from an unknown fate. This arises from what he described as the “obstinacy and insistence on holding on to the leadership of an incapacitated President even though all of the medical reports confirm his inability to take on the task of running the nation.”

The images referred to by Belhadj were broadcast by the official media on Tuesday, as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ended his two-day official visit to Algeria. The media also published pictures of Lt Gen Saleh, who confirmed Algeria’s determination to build a strong, modern, and sophisticated army that is capable of protecting every inch of the territory of Algeria and preserving its national sovereignty.

Algeria: President’s health causes 10 heads of state to cancel visits

Last weekend, politician and jurist Ali Yahya Abdel Nour, politician Ahmed Talib Brahimi and Rashid Ben Yels of the Algerian military called for the people to overcome their cultural, linguistic and political differences in order to avoid damaging the country and save what could be saved by challenging the plans for Bouteflika to have another term in office. A statement from the three figures said that this stems from the President’s poor health.

“In democratic countries and in circumstances such as those of President Bouteflika, either resignation or intervention by the Constitutional Council is provided for,” they pointed out. “Unfortunately, in Algeria, the state institutions are the ones that prevent this from happening, even though Article 102 of the Constitution guarantees it. Orders are being given by people close to the president’s family, or figures who are taking advantage of the situation.”

The people of Algeria, they claim, are scared of challenging the status quo and returning to the dark years of terrorism and oppression.

It is rare for the Algerian President to appear outside the presidential compound these days following his stroke in April 2013.