Algerian president returns from Germany after post-Covid surgery

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune's prolonged stays abroad for health issues related to Covid-19 raised fears of a power vacuum in the North African country which is struggling with health, political and economic crises
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune's prolonged stays abroad for health issues related to Covid-19 raised fears of a power vacuum in the North African country which is struggling with health, political and economic crises - CANAL ALGERIE/AFP
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Algiers (AFP)

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune returned home Friday after a one-month stay in Germany for surgery following post-Covid-19 complications, with pressing issues awaiting him in a country struggling with health, political and economic crises.

Tebboune's prolonged stays abroad, totalling three months since late October, had raised concerns in the North African nation of possible power vacuum.

Tebboune, 75 and a heavy smoker, had been hospitalised in Germany last year after contracting Covid-19, and stayed there for two months before returning to Algeria.

He returned to Germany on January 10, and underwent a "successful" operation on his right foot 10 days later following post-Covid 19 complications, according to the presidency.

It did not, however, specify the nature of the complications which Tebboune had suffered.

"The President of the Republic, Supreme Chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defence, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, returned today," the state broadcaster said Friday.

It broadcast images showing the president standing up without a face mask and greeting top officials with an elbow bump.

Among the key issues that await him include the development of the new electoral law ahead of anticipated local and legislative elections slated to be held by the end of the year.

A government reshuffle is also expected.

The economy of Africa's largest nation is heavily dependent on income from oil, and has battered by the fluctuating international prices of crude, amid the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn.

Tebboune won office in December 2019, eight months after the popular Hirak protest movement swept out his ailing predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Tebboune's initial convalescence in Germany had reminded many Algerians of octogenarian Bouteflika's frequent hospitalisations abroad.

"Wake-up!... since mid-October, he has spent only a dozen days in Algeria," wrote journalist Abed Charef.

The president's return comes amid tension ahead of the second anniversary of the launch of the Hirak protests on February 22.

Hirak protesters continued after Bouteflika's fall, demanding a full overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria's 1962 independence from France.

However, social distancing rules to stem the coronavirus pandemic meant that protesters had to halt their street rallies early last year.

Algeria's CNLD prisoners' rights group says over 90 people, including activists, social media users and journalists, are currently in custody in connection with the country's anti-government protest movement or individual liberties -- mostly for dissenting social media posts.

Algeria has recorded over 110,000 cases including over 2,900 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

On the eve of his return, Tebboune had called German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to thank him for the medical care he had received abroad.