An insult to Algerians

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika waves from inside a vehicle on March 3, 2014, in Algiers, as he made a rare appearance to drop off papers for his reelection. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

A common definition of wisdom is having good judgment, and the recent news from Algeria provides a stark example of what the opposite of wisdom entails.

Some people might not have been particularly surprised by the news that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was determined to run for a fourth term, at the age of 77. However, the formal announcement, coupled with the public appearance of a person obviously suffering from debilitating ill health, have provoked a wave of disappointment and anger.

Whether or not one is a public figure, the ability to learn from one’s mistakes and the mistakes of others is valuable. But what can be said about a system that fails to agree on someone to take over from Bouteflika, whose health condition alone makes him a less-than-satisfactory choice to lead Algeria for the next five years? His candidacy is a slap in the face of nearly 40 million people, who are in effect being told that the powers-that-be consider only one person qualified to be head of state. And the fact that this sorry saga is taking place more than three years after a series of popular uprisings in Arab countries broke out – against entrenched rulers and their corruption – makes the whole affair even more outrageous.

It is as if the Algerian kingmakers are determined to ignore nearly every warning sign that has emerged during the Arab Spring and press ahead with a plan to incite civil unrest, or worse. And it is an insult to anyone who hoped that Algeria’s politics would finally evolve in a way that honors the sacrifices of the country’s many, many martyrs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 06, 2014, on page 7.




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