A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bouteflika Appears Again; Meets Kerry

It's certainly unusual when a candidate for the Presidency of a major country is rarely seen during the campaign, even on television, but today we did get another glimpse of Algerian President Bouteflika, this time receiving John Kerry on his North African tour. The opposition in Algeria had been warning that a visit so close to the Presidential election on April 17. Algerian TV showed Bouteflika speaking to Kerry through an interpreter about intelligence cooperation in counter-terrorism, and even showed him standing to greet Kerry; most photos of him sense his stroke have shown him seated.

Speaking of Bouteflika, you should check out this look at his career by kal at The Moor Next Door: "A Pillar of the Regime and among the Younger Ministers of His Generation." The quote in the title is not a recent one, but refers to the Boumedienne era in the 1960s.

The tendency of Arab leaders to cling to power even when they are physically impaired (and Bouteflika is far from the exception here). Bouteflika is much younger than some incumbent Arab leaders, but his stroke has clearly impaired him.

Charles de Gaulle once famously remarked that "La vieillesse est un naufrage": "Old age is a shipwreck." He was referring to Marshal Pétain, and blaming the fall of France on the onetime hero's age (84 in 1940) for the surrender. Ironically, by the 1960s some of de Gaulle's critics, though he was only in his 70s, would quote the same lines about de Gaulle.

Ironically, though, there is probably no other candidate that the Algerian establishment could agree to unite behind.

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