Abdelaziz Bouteflika was sworn in yesterday for his fourth term as President of Algeria, but there was no joy in Algiers or anywhere else in the country.
Reuters reported that Bouteflika took the oath "in a weak, often wavering voice" and from a wheelchair, and this was his first public speech in two years--all of this from the effects of a stroke.
In a way, Bouteflika’s sad situation reflects that of Algeria: its political system is also sick and stuck, as I’ve noted before here. In Algeria, almost half the population is under the age of 24 and youth unemployment is high. What can Algerian youth have thought about the event yesterday, where hidden powers in the military decide that a very sick 77-year-old man must soldier on into another term that he will most likely not survive?
There’s a difference between a system that is stable, and one that is frozen solid--and therefore risks becoming brittle and then fragile. Watching Abdelaziz Bouteflika painfully take his oath of office yesterday, one had to wonder whether Algeria’s rulers are risking the country’s stability in a vain effort to freeze the system they have built into place permanently.