Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat—As rumors continue to swirl around the health of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the deputy leader of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) has said that Algeria is in a worse state today than when the president took office.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, FIS deputy leader Ali Benhadj called on the president to leave power. He emphasized that Bouteflika “took power of an ailing country and will leave it in an even worse state.”
Criticizing the Algerian president’s claims of development and achievement, the Islamist leader said: “What some people consider achievements are in fact projects that go back to the initial years of Algeria’s independence, however their execution have been delayed for more than 35 years,” adding, “some of these achievements were made thanks to suspicious deals that plundered huge sums of the public money.”
Benhadj stressed that “one cannot praise material achievements under tyranny; when people’s hopes are being suppressed and their legitimate rights are being denied.”
Algeria’s official APS news agency has reported that President Bouteflika is being treated for a minor stroke at the Paris-area Val-de-Grace military hospital. The news service published a message from Bouteflika earlier this week, saying he was on the road to recovery.
Bouteflika issued a public message earlier this week attempting to reassure the people of Algeria about his health.
“While I continue to receive medical treatment, I must thank almighty God for allowing me to get better and now be on the road to recovery,” the president wrote. “I must also reassure my dear compatriots and thank them for their prayers and messages of sympathy.”
Despite attempts to play down Bouteflika’s health concerns, controversy continues to surround his ability to resume his presidential responsibilities. There is wide-ranging speculation that he will not seek a fourth term in office at the presidential elections scheduled to be held next year.
Criticizing Bouteflika’s decision to seek medical treatment in France, Benhadj told Asharq Al-Awsat: “No doubt, the French president and intelligence know the truth about Bouteflika’s illness. I consider this a catastrophe. Nobody in our country knows the truth about his illness—it is fatigue, a temporary or chronic condition?—but the highest authorities’ in France know specific details about the president’s health, and whether he can resume his political duties or not.”
The Islamic figure, who is banned from speaking in the local media, emphasized: “There can be no doubt that France will intervene, in one way or another, in Algerian politics, should the president be unable to resume his political duties. France is worried about the interests it has gained since Bouteflika came to power.”
“France’s bankrupt companies have resuscitated themselves thanks to Algeria’s public funds, without fear of prosecution. Therefore, Paris will do everything in its power to ensure its interests” he added.
As for those refusing to join the debate raging around Bouteflika’s health for moral reasons, Benhadj said: “We must differentiate between the health of the president and that of any ordinary citizen. The president’s health will have an impact on society at large and state institutions, which are known to be corrupt. The ailing state becomes even sicker when the president is ill, especially as the president holds broad powers.”