An ailing president for an ailing country – no better words describe Algeria’s latest of presidential elections, in which Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 77 years old and wheelchair-bound, won a fourth term as president of the North African country. With 81.5 per cent votes cast in Bouteflika’s favor, the elections are just the latest of the political farce that has gripped Algeria: Bouteflika’s high approval rating is but a façade that hides away a crumbling interior of dissatisfaction and decline. A housing crisis, high rates of unemployment, and runaway inflation have made those acquiescent to Bouteflika’s negligence much more aware of its consequences for the country.

On the eve of the 18 April election, a smattering of opposition protesters took to the streets of Algiers to rally against the violent crackdowns of police and security forces. The few demonstrators waving signs of a caricature of Bouteflika’s name on a tombstone understand all too well the implications of the senile president’s re-election: it would be a continuance of the decline that Algeria has seen of late, especially since – and mainly because – its most powerful member is incapable of even hearing the opinions of others, both literally and figuratively. And with his foregone reelection, hope within the country, once ignited by the democratic sparks lit by the Arab Spring, is beginning to decline.

But the fire won’t simply go out, and soon hope will turn to desperation: sporadic protests have grown in strength and frequency since Bouteflika’s announcement of his bid in February. The leader, who has been in office since 1999, did away with constitutional clauses limiting him to two terms, and has turned a self-styled democratic regime into an authoritarian political void. A minor stroke in April of 2013, which sent the leader out of the country for over a quarter of the year, has marred his past term with the cold fact that his time will very soon be up, whether at the hands of angry protestors or of his soon-ending biological clock.

Appearance of him, both in policy measures and on airwaves, is scant, earning him the nickname “phantom president.” His campaign team knew that this would be a major oppositional point for his opponent, former lawyer and Justice Minister Ali Benflis, and employed a propagandizing counter-strategy: TV ads and posters placed on public buildings have attempted to assure voters that the president’s health is improving and that he can run the country effectively. Though the measures worked in convincing the public of Bouteflika’s merits, Benflis has discounted the election as a “public sham” and has told his followers, pointing to his meager 12 per cent standing, to decry the illegitimacy of Bouteflika’s reelection.

But as protests show, Bouteflika’s silver reputation as an ender of terrorism and the country’s civil war in the 1990s may soon tarnish. Growing opposition, including the Barakat (Enough) movement of students, doctors and lawyers, do not plan on backing down from an increasingly urgent fight. And though the number of protesters pales in comparison to their counterparts in Egypt and Turkey, their cry for change has only gotten louder.

Perhaps what is most important is the fact that Algeria seems to continue to run on a strict and powerful authoritarian regime, despie its ruler’s incapacity to govern. Behind the opaque wall of the “phantom president”, Le Pouvoir, a military-industrial complex of elites, are the actual leaders yanking the reins of power. Its stranglehold on Algeria’s political economy and its internal security is likewise challenged by the near end of Bouteflika’s impotent rule. And its leaders, such as Major General Mohamed Tewfiq Medienne, will face both public discontent and a growing expectation to see a new president carry Algeria out of its current state – some speculate that Le Pouvoir’s largest barrier is overcoming a division among its ranks on the backroom selection of Bouteflika’s successor.

But as of now, the incompetent ruling government will remain. Those who look for change will find it either in faraway elections or hope that Bouteflika’s post will gradually send him to the grave.