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Abdelaziz Bouteflika has turned Algeria into a necrocracy

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Let us now praise famous men. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, for example. What goes on in his comatose brain? What moves in the 83-year old heart of the zombie president who – as the Algerians protesting his fifth attempt at presidential power have just discovered – will now stay on as a coffin-president into next year. Or, who knows, the year afterwards?

But why on earth do men like Bouteflika do these things? In his case, he’s not just “clinging to power”. He is being prevented from entering the grave.

Old men forget, observed Shakespeare’s Henry V, and wartime diplomat Duff Cooper used this as the title of his memoirs. “Autumn has always been my favourite season,” he wrote. “…I love the sunlight but I cannot fear the coming of the dark.” He lived for another eleven years.

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Winston Churchill was 80 when, on the morning of 23 March 1955, he was shocked to read the headline in The Guardian: “Cabinet urging premier to resign. His health said to be retarding its work.”

And yes, we are coming to Bouteflika of Algeria in just a moment. And Hosni Mubarak, who was 83 when the Arab revolution overwhelmed him in 2011, while still pleading for another seven months in power. Or the present King Salman of Saudi Arabia, 83 last year.

Or field-marshal-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is only 64 but for whom the parliament and courts are now providing him with the chance of ruling Egypt in 2030 when he will be 75, or far longer if he chooses.

Less than two years before he read that Guardian headline in 1953, Churchill had suffered a severe stroke at 10 Downing Street. His cabinet colleagues did not notice next morning, and the public were told he was merely “exhausted”. He was paralysed on one side. Thanks be to God that he did not have a hoarse voice in parliament, which might have given the game away.

Yet three months after this (second) stroke, Churchill made a triumphant speech to Margate Tories about his intention to hold a summit with the Russians – he was standing for 50 minutes and never once faltered – and the next month learned that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Old men did not always........

© Independent