Is Algeria’s Bouteflika so sick that he can’t host guests or was the flu a pretext to politely snub Mohammed bin Salman and avoid criticism?
Rabat – The office of Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced earlier today that the head of state, who was set to host Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, had to cancel the meeting due to acute flu.
The Saudi prince arrived in Algeria late on Sunday for a two-day visit as part of his “world tour.”
The cancellation of the meeting between Mohammed bin Salman and the Algerian president is likely to result in speculations that Bouteflika withdrew himself from the scheduled meeting with MBS to avoid criticism.
At the announcement of the Saudi prince’s plan to visit Algeria, activists and some politicians raised their voice to object to the visit, calling it an “insult” and an “affront” to the country’s history.
The public outcry that surrounded MBS visit–both in Algeria and in other countries in the Maghreb region–may have to the Algerian president’s last-minute change of heart regarding the pair’s meeting, many have suggested.
Meanwhile, other speculations include heightened concern about Bouteflika’s deteriorating health and his fitness for Office. Seizing the “flu” opportunity, some are asking whether Bouteflika is able to run a presidential campaign during the 2019 election.
In power since 1999, Bouteflika seeks re-election for a fifth term during the 2019 Algerian presidential elections.
The National Liberation Front (FLN), Algeria’s ruling party, confirmed the president’s decision to run for a fifth term. FLN leadership is unanimously supporting Bouteflika’s fifth term aspirations, plainly disregard concerns over the ailing president’s degrading health conditions.
Former French Ambassador to Algeria Bernard Bajolet also questioned Bouteflika’s ability to lead. He said that Bouteflika is kept alive “artificially.”
Last week, CEO of Cevital Algerie Issad Rebrab said that Bouteflika is not even “aware” of the recent developments happening in the country. “An invisible hand is governing Algeria,” the businessman said.
Amid speculations about Bouteflika’s decision not to personally host MBS, AFP reported that the crown prince’s visit in Algeria was greeted with outcry. A group of 17 “prominent journalists and intellectuals” harshly criticized MBS’ presence in Algeria, according to AFP.
Abderrazak Makri of the Islamist Movement of Society for Peace
said that MBS’s visit “does not serve Algeria’s image nor its reputation.”
Bouteflika suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013. Several analysts and journalists recommended Bouteflika withdraw from the presidential election, questioning his ability to lead.
The same scenario happened when MBS offered to include Morocco in his world tour. King Mohammed VI, however, refused to personally receive him due to busy agenda.