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The New Arab

Algeria's ailing Bouteflika makes first appearance in a month

Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013 [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 March, 2017

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Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika made a rare televised appearance on Sunday for the first time since a visit by Germany's chancellor was cancelled last month due to his ailing health.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika appeared on television on Sunday for the first time since a visit by Germany's chancellor was called off last month because of the Algerian leader's ailing health.

State television showed the 80-year-old president receiving Algeria's minister for African Union and Arab League affairs, Abdelkader Messahel.

On 20 February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called off a scheduled visit to Algiers at the last minute because the veteran president was suffering from "acute bronchitis".

The last-minute cancellation of Merkel's trip raised further speculation about the frail leader's medical condition and reignited a debate about his capacity to act as head of state.

"The situation in the country has become unmanageable due to the president's state of health," political analyst Rachid Tlemcani said.

"After the cancellation of this visit for a medical reason, it will be difficult for his supporters to defend the idea of a fifth term."

Bouteflika, Algeria's longest-serving leader, won re-election in 2014 to serve a fourth term, despite having suffered a mini-stroke the previous year that has affected his speech and mobility.

He has been confined to a wheelchair since the stroke, meeting foreign guests at his home in Zeralda west of the capital and making few public appearances.

Bouteflika travelled to France in November for "periodic medical checks", but in recent months National Liberation Front chief Djamel Ould Abbes had said his health was improving - even mentioning a possible fifth term in 2019.

His opponents had spoken of a "power vacuum" since his stroke.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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