IT is rare, but not unknown, for deceased candidates to be elected to public office. It is somewhat less uncommon for moribund time-servers to be re-installed in, or even elevated to, positions of power in what are clearly their last years.

Perhaps the most farcical instances of this phenomenon was witnessed in the Soviet Union in the first half of 1980s, when Leonid Brezhnev, barely alive in the final phase of his leadership, was succeeded by-

By an ailing Yuri Andropov, who lasted about 15 months, whereupon Konstantin Chernenko was virtually dragged out of his deathbed and propped up in the red chair.

A related phenomenon is leader who considers themselves irreplaceable . Vladimir Putin, to name but one, completes two decades at the helm this year - even longer than Brezhnev's tenure, which seemed interminable.

It happens to be standard practice pretty much right across Arab states.

Algeria may, for various reasons, have been regarded as something of an exception until the turn of the century.

But Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who assumed power months before Putin in 1999, has strictly adhered to the broader regional template, and, in fact, added to it a layer of surrealism.

A veteran of Algeria's protracted and brutal war of independence from France, Bouteflika became a minister for at 25 after the struggle paid off in 1962, and subsequently served both  Ahmed Ban Bella and Houri Boumedienne as foreign minister.

Accused of corruption afterwards, he spent some years in exile, but was back in the hierarchy of the ruling National Liberation Front [FLN] by the end of 80s, before the armed forces put paid to the prospect of the Islamic Salvation Front [FIS] gaining power through elections.

A long civil war followed, a devastating contest for ascendancy between Islamist insurgents and the state in which civilians paid the highest price.

Bouteflika had been in office for three years by the time it ended in 2002, serving at the pleasure of the military and related components of the enduring power structure.

Later that decade, a constitutional change was required to allow him a third term. On the eve of his fourth, he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013, but was a shoo-in nonetheless.

He has since then seldom been seen in public and even more rarely heard.

One would have thought the  intervening period would have more than sufficed for arbiters of power to come up an alternative and somewhat more credible figurehead. Apparently not.

For many Algerians, who have thus far been willing to barter certain freedoms in exchange for stability and security, the announcement that Bouteflika would run for a fifth term proved to be the last straw.

Receiving medical attention in Switzerland, he wasn't even able, as the rule requires, to submit his nomination papers in person.

The operational research on Algeria continues. The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Maher Ali.


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