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Thursday, 25 February 2021

Algeria president in first TV appearance in almost two months

'Thanks to God... I have started on the road to recovery,' the 75-year-old said a day after the first anniversary of his election

AFP , Sunday 13 Dec 2020
Tebboune
A video grab taken from the personal twitter account of Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on December 13, 2020 shows him delivering a speech to a camera next to an Algerian flag. (Photo: AFP)
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Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said Sunday he was recovering from the Covid-19 illness, in his first televised appearance since he was hospitalised in Germany almost two months ago.

"Thanks to God... I have started on the road to recovery," the 75-year-old said a day after the first anniversary of his election.

"It may take two or three weeks but, God willing, I will recover all my bodily strength."

The video was broadcast on state television and published on Tebboune's Twitter feed.

He did not indicate his location, but his Twitter feed indicated that he was outside Algeria.

Tebboune, a heavy smoker, was hospitalised in Germany on October 28, and Algerian authorities later announced that he had the Covid-19 illness.

His absence had sparked concerns of an institutional crisis, weeks after voters approved a revised constitution on record low turnout in a referendum widely seen as a manoeuvre to neutralise the long-running Hirak protest movement.

Tebboune has been unable to sign the revised constitution into law because he must be on Algerian soil to do so.

He also has until December 31 to sign off on a 2021 budget.

But he said Sunday he was following developments in Algeria "day by day, if not hour by hour", and noted progress in cutting the country's daily toll of coronavirus infections.

Visibly thinner than before and wearing a casual jacket, he sat at a desk next to an Algerian flag.

Economic woes
Tebboune won last year's widely boycotted December 12 presidential election, following months of mass protests that had swept his predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office.

Tebboune's prolonged disappearance had reminded many Algerians of Bouteflika's frequent hospitalisations abroad.

Last month's constitutional referendum, timed to coincide with Algeria's 1962 independence from France, had been seen as a bid to boost Tebboune's legitimacy.

But with the president overseas and the Hirak urging a boycott, the vote saw even lower turnout than the election that brought Tebboune to power.

His absence came as Algeria faces a sharp recession due to the coronavirus pandemic and a gaping budget deficit due to low crude prices that have slashed the country's vital oil revenues.

Tebboune has promised to fight for a "strong and diversified" economy and work to wean the country off oil.

He vowed Sunday that "no citizen on a low income will be hit by new taxes."

Tebboune has also reached out to the "blessed" Hirak, which staged over a year of mass protests until it was forced to suspend them amid coronavirus restrictions earlier this year.

But his administration has overseen a crackdown on dissent.

Prisoners' rights group the CNLD says around 90 activists, social media users and journalists are currently in custody, mostly for social media posts.

"Tebboune could have created legitimacy, launching large projects of political, economic and institutional renewal," Charef said.

"But he has not been able to, or has not known how."

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