Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune marks a year in office on Saturday, but he has not been seen since he travelled to Germany more than six weeks ago to be treated for coronavirus.
The president’s office issued a statement on November 30 that said Mr Tebboune had left a specialised medical facility, was continuing his convalescence and should be return home “in the coming days”.
The statement gave rise to questions about 75-year-old Mr Tebboune, his whereabouts and his health. The name of clinic where he was treated was not made public.
The absence of the head of state, who also serves as defence chief, recalled the long absences of his predecessor. Abdelaziz Bouteflika went to France for treatment after a stroke in 2013 and later travelled to Switzerland for medical check-ups. There was a lot of speculation and little information on his condition.
Mr Bouteflika rarely appeared in public but continued to rule. He was forced to abandon his bid for a fifth term last year before being pushed from office under pressure from street protests and the powerful army.
Mr Tebboune left for Germany on October 28.
“I sincerely expected him to give us a surprise by returning home today for the first anniversary of his election. It’s the ideal timing,” Hassiba Aoudia, a retired French teacher said on Friday evening. She was a member of Mr Tebboune’s group of supporters when he was a candidate.
Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad has been in charge during Mr Tebboune's absence, conspicuous as the country struggles with an economy made worse by the coronavirus and other problems.
Constitutional law professor Fatiha Benabou said there was no date limiting the time Mr Tebboune can be away.
"Authorities have a large margin for manoeuvre," she said. "But on a political level, the absence of the president, who embodies the essential powers, is a problem."