Last week on Tuesday, the Office of the President of Algeria announced that the head of state had the COVID-19 illness. The announcement ended days of speculation over why the President had been hospitalized in a health facility in Algiers. Officials said the president was undergoing COVID-19 treatment at the time.
Undergoing COVID-19 Treatment in Germany
The 74-year-old President, a heavy smoker, continued to receive treatment in an Algerian military hospital for a while before being transferred to a specialized German hospital. Days before the transfer, the President had been in self-isolation following reports of novel coronavirus cases among his aides. It is believed that the head of state-contracted the disease from one of his staff’s several senior members.
This week the President’s office announced the President had finished his treatment for COVID-19 in an undisclosed location in Germany. They added that he was undergoing further medical tests, but he was much better. The medical team accompanying the President also stated that he had completed the recommended treatment protocol and was currently undergoing medical tests in a statement of their own. However, both reports did not provide information about the President’s condition or location or when the President would return to Algeria.
Ousting of Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Some newspapers close to the Algerian authorities reported that the President would return in the next week to Algeria. For many Algerians across the country, the President’s treatment in Germany recalled the absence of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who suffered a stroke. The President suffered from a stroke back in 2013 and stayed in the hospital abroad for nearly three months.
When President Bouteflika returned after his treatment, he appeared physically weak and never left his medicalized residence. It was evident that the after-effects of the President’s treatment would stay with him for a long while. Despite this, Algerians elected him in 2014 for a fourth term. However, his choice to pursue a fifth term sparked unprecedented protests, which led him to resign in April last year.
Constitutional Referendum in Algeria
Tebboune took over as the President in December after he won elections replacing Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Pro-democracy protestors backed by a powerful army chief pushed President Bouteflika out of office. As a first-order, President Tebboune called for a revision of the constitution of Algeria. He saw the move as a means to bury the mass protests movement and to boost himself. The President needed the extra publicity because he received a low turnout of voters despite his election into office in December.
The constitutional referendum saw participation plunge to new lows, according to official data. The youth-led Hirak protest movement, which had caused the ousting of Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power, had called for a boycott of the poll. Just 23.7 percent of registered voters cast ballots helping the constitutional referendum pass with two-thirds of the vote. Tebboune’s illness meant that he could not attend and participate in the referendum on November 1st.
In recent weeks, Algeria has seen a resurgence in Covid-19 infections. Algeria has a population of over 44 million people. The country has officially confirmed more than 58,979 cases, with nearly 2,000 deaths.