President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was evacuated to specialist hospital in Germany on 28 October having been in an Algerian military hospital for perhaps as long as ten days after contracted COVID-19. Aged 75 — and as a heavy smoker and reputed drinker with underlying morbidity problems — his prognosis is not good and there were reports that he was on a respirator. Legitimate doubts now persist about his likely, or uncertain, recovery because it is clearly very unlikely that he will be able to continue to exercise his functions as head of state in the near future.
This brings back memories of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who, despite suffering a stroke in 2013, remained in office for another six years, until April 2019, while medically incapacitated and unable to fulfil his functions as president. The regime clearly fears another such chaotic situation.
What happens constitutionally if Tebboune dies or is unable to fulfil his functions as president? In terms of the constitution, the president of the Council of the Nation (i.e. the Senate) becomes interim president for up to 90 days during which he has to organise new presidential elections. The current Senate president is Salah Goudjil, a long-serving Front de libération nationale (FLN) political nondescript, who is now approaching 91 years old. He was appointed on 9 April 2019 on the assumption that the incumbent Senate president, Abdelkader Bensalah, would return from illness to retake his position. However, Benaslah did not do so and Goudjil remains in post but technically this is unconstitutional. To add to the succession debacle, we also understand that Goudjil may not be medically fit for the office, because his grandson recently produced medical documents to third party sources involved in a family inheritance dispute, indicating that Goudjil was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
After the political chaos of the last two years — with the two cancelled presidential elections of April and July 2019, followed by the disputed election in December 2019 — most Algerians will almost certainly refuse to participate in another such fraudulent ballot, and especially in the current political and constitutional crisis.