In early November something extraordinary happened. A group of 19 public figures held a press conference to inquire whether their president was still in charge of the country. They had written to request a meeting, but fearing their letter wouldn’t reach him, decided to publicize its contents. Some of the older guard expressed fears that their ‘old friend’ was effectively being held captive in the presidential palace, unaware of the decisions being made in his name.
This is Algeria, where political commentators have been muttering about the increasing incapacity of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for years. The incumbent was re-elected for a fourth term in April 2014 without having appeared before the voters throughout the campaign; in fact he hasn’t made a speech since March 2012. With even Bouteflika’s friends now barred from seeing him, the sense that this parody of leadership must be resolved is palpable.