Left Behind By Business World? Algeria Stuck In A State Of Limbo

Left Behind By Business World? Algeria Stuck In A State Of Limbo

From The New York Times
Algeria seems stuck in a state of limbo.President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in July. He suffered a stroke in April, and he has not addressed the nation in more than a year, reports Carlotta Gall.

The 76-year-old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 14 years into his tenure, has not addressed the nation in more than a year and is chair-bound since suffering a stroke in April. Since then, he has held just three meetings with foreign dignitaries. Outside a tight circle, no one is even sure if he still speaks. Still, the ruling National Liberation Front, clinging to stability in a chaotic region, is backing Mr. Bouteflika for a fourth term in presidential elections set for April.

Before a postponement was announced because of the Iran nuclear negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to visit here on Sunday, but it was not clear that he would have met the president. Mr. Kerry’s mission to persuade this critical strategic partner — with vast oil wealth, a powerful army and intelligence service, and experience in fighting Islamic terrorism — to take a more assertive role in the region will be no easy task.

“Algeria should be a big actor in this part of the world, but it is not playing its role,” Ihsane el-Kadi of Maghreb Emergent, an online business publication, said in an interview. “It is still a closed country.”

Indeed, critics and other observers say the generation of leaders who won Algeria’s independence from France in 1962 and still run the country half a century later will continue to resist any change. A civil war against Islamic extremists in the 1990s — at the cost of about 200,000 lives — has left the population wary of change, too. The result has been that a variety of problems, like a prostrate economy and declining levels of education, have been left to fester and now threaten to undermine the country’s future and even eventual stability.

The government’s paralysis is among the most apparent symptoms of the nation’s malaise and of the leadership’s wariness of political transition. Just how the country is run, and by whom, is so opaque that diplomats and journalists say they are reduced to an Algerian version of Kremlin watching.

Read more at The New York Times.