Power struggle for Algerian presidency emerges over Bouteflika's alleged 'mental deficiency'

Power struggle for Algerian presidency emerges over Bouteflika's alleged 'mental deficiency'
A former presidential candidate has openly questioned Algerian President Bouteflika's ability to lead the country this week over his alleged mental incapacity.
2 min read
13 August, 2017
Bouteflika voting in the last round of elections [AFP]

A power struggle has emerged at the top of Algerian politics ahead of the 2019 presidential elections, as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's physical and mental health allegedly worsens and questions are raised about his ability to lead the country.

A former presidential candidate made the radical step of criticising the president - illegal under Algerian law - while a number of potential presidential replacements have been seen posturing for the top job.

"If what is attributed to President Bouteflika by En-Nahar TV actually comes from him, it would mean that we are not only in the presence of a man who has been afflicted with physical failure, but also mental deficiency," Noureddine Boukrouh wrote on Facebook.

"We are in front of a mentally helpless man which inevitably necessitates his disqualification. His confused actions and statements endanger the country."

Boukrouh was referring to an En-Nahar TV report, aired Thursday, which said President Bouteflika was angry at Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune for organising a trip without his knowledge or approval.

Tebboune travelled to Paris to meet his French counterpart, Edouard Philippe, without a diplomatic agenda - prompting a presidential criticism against "a serious violation of protocols".

In an interesting twist, Huffington Post Arabic reported that the criticism may not have emanated from the president at all.

"What Al-Nahar has leaked as the president's words is in fact a letter signed by the director of the presidential office, Ahmed Ouyahia,” the Huffington Post article said.

"Some parties took advantage of the presence of the prime minister outside the country, leaked this letter to the press and attributed it to the president."

Questions have arisen in recent months over Bouteflika's actual role in government, after he suffered a stroke on April 27, 2013. The Algerian leader has been wheelchair-bound ever since and makes few public appearances.

His brother and chief adviser Said Bouteflika is said to be the favourite to replace him as presidential candidate for the party. However, a number of other candidates are also vying for power.

Other personalities who are said to be positioning themselves currently include Ahmed Ouyahia - the writer behind the presidential decree - and Djamel Ould Abbes, the Secretary-General of the ruling political party, the National Liberation Front (FLN).