PARIS, April 28, 2013 (AFP)
PARIS, April 28, 2013 (AFP)
Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was in a Paris hospital on Sunday after suffering a mini-stroke, raising media doubts about his ability to govern less than a year before a presidential election.
The 76-year-old, who has been in power since 1999, suffered a “transient ischaemia” on Saturday.
This is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain often called a “mini-stroke,” said Rachid Bougherbal, the director of Algeria’s National Sports Medicine Center.
“An initial investigation has already been opened and his excellency the president of the republic must observe a period of rest to undergo exams,” Bougherbal told Algeria’s APS news agency.
He insisted there was no cause for “any anxiety.”
However, a transient ischaemia attack “is more accurately characterised as a ‘warning stroke’, a warning you should take very seriously,” according to the website of the American Heart Association.
Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal urged calm, in comments reported by APS.
“Several hours ago the president felt a little faint and was hospitalized, but his situation is not at all serious,” said Sellal, who did not interrupt a visit to the northern city of Bejaia on hearing the news.
Sellal was quoted on Algerian radio on Sunday as saying: “We have nothing to hide — we say what needs to be said.”
APS said Bouteflika had been taken to Paris for “further tests under the recommendation of his doctor,” citing a medical source who said his condition was stable but that he would need several days of rest.
Bouteflika arrived at Le Bourget airport outside Paris and was driven under army escort to the Val de Grace military hospital, which often treats high-profile patients from France and abroad.
Saturday’s late-breaking news made headlines in Algeria.
“The very idea that this news is made public is in itself a media shock,” wrote the francophone daily Liberte.
“This time the presidency has judged the incident to be serious enough not to hide it from the Algerian people.”
Another daily, El Watan, reported that although Bouteflika’s mini-stroke “dates officially from 12:30 p.m. yesterday (Saturday), some sources have confided that the president suffered the attack about a week ago.”
It said the announcement that he was in hospital “above all confirms what all Algerians suspect — the president is indeed sick and his health is a visible obstacle to his exercising power.”
The French-language Le soir d’Algerie was blunt in its assessment.
“Is Bouteflika still able to fulfil his functions until the end of his current mandate?” it asked. “And even more, is it still conceivable that his mandate will be renewed for a fourth term?“
A veteran of Algeria’s war for independence from France, Bouteflika later helped end a decade-long civil war that killed at least 150,000 people, and is known abroad for restoring stability.
But he has been condemned by rights groups and opponents for being authoritarian, despite launching political reforms in April 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring unrest that toppled other long-standing regional rulers.