Algeria finds a president. Two months after being transferred to Germany to be treated for Covid-19, Abdelmadjid Tebboune finally returned to Algiers. “It’s difficult to be far from your country and even more difficult for someone who has a lot of responsibilities”, said the head of state, images of which were broadcast on Tuesday, December 29, on the evening television news.
What state is the head of state in? Is he physically able to continue to exercise his prerogatives? “The President of the Republic assured that he had little left for a total cure”, underlines the official press agency (APS). After an intervention broadcast by his Twitter account on December 13 in which he appeared very tired and thin, Mr. Tebboune seems to have gained weight.
The prolonged absence of Mr. Tebboune, 75, once again left the specter of a power vacuum in Algiers, prompting some voices to demand the application of article 102 of the Constitution which provides for the prevention of head of state for inability to perform his duties.
“Impression of déjà vu”
But, above all, this long stay in Germany brought the Algerians back to a not so distant time – and that they thought they would never live again -, when the old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, aging and very ill, had taken the habit of seek treatment in France or Switzerland before completely disappearing from the public sphere. “It’s like a feeling of déjà vu. A repetition of the Bouteflika era. Especially if Mr. Tebboune returns to a worrying state ”, commented a few days ago, the sociologist Nacer Djabi. “Are we doomed to be ruled only by bedridden or sick people? “, even questioned Mohcine Belabbas, the president of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), an opposition party.
In Algeria, this convalescence in Germany, in an undisclosed location, was badly perceived even though Mr. Tebboune had proclaimed in June: “Our health system is the best in the Maghreb and Africa. ” Ironically, when the Head of State had just left the country to seek treatment abroad, Lakhdar Bouregaâ, hero of independence and figure of Hirak – the protest movement born in 2019 -, died at the age of 87 in Algiers after also contracting Covid-19.
Abdelmadjid Tebboune therefore returned to Algeria in time to tackle several backlogs that awaited him. The most urgent probably concerns the new Constitution, presented as a condition sine qua non to building a “New Algeria”. Adopted after a massively boycotted referendum on 1er November, it had to be ratified by the Head of State within forty-five days of the proclamation of the results of the ballot by the Constitutional Council (ie, at the latest, on December 27), in order to enter into force.
Another priority project: the ratification of the 2021 budget that Mr. Tebboune must sign before December 31. The appointments of ambassadors, magistrates, senior officials, security officials have been frozen for weeks. Because the absence of the president plunged Algeria into lethargy when it was facing a protean crisis. Health, first: the country, rather spared by the first wave of Covid-19 in the spring, was hit hard by the resurgence of the pandemic (nearly 100,000 cases for more than 2,700 dead). Financial, then: with revenues essentially drawn from the price of hydrocarbons in the midst of a slump, Algeria is still awaiting the structural reforms which have been promised many times and which would get it out of its dependence on the volatile wealth of its subsoil.
Massive job losses
Due to the pandemic, the Algerian economy is expected to experience a 5.2% recession in 2020 and record a budget deficit among the highest in the region, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Job losses are massive and the dinar keeps losing value.
But the Algerian power can always count on the unwavering support of Paris. “I tell you frankly: I will do everything in my power to help President Tebboune in this period of transition. He’s courageous “, President Emmanuel Macron said in the magazine Young Africa, End of november.
While the population is worried about all these crises, the government continues to toughen repression. When Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected president a year ago, he promised to ” give a hand ” at “Blessed Hirak”. But some 90 people – most of them activists in the protest movement – are in custody on charges of opinion in thirty wilayas (departments) out of the forty-eight in the country.