Thousands of Algerians protest to push power elite out

Thousands of Algerians protest to push power elite out
3 min read
03 May, 2019
Algerians poured onto the streets to push for sweeping changes in the wake of veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika's departure, after the army chief appeared to rebuff their demands.
Weeks of peaceful demonstrations forced Bouteflika out of office on April 2. [Getty]

Thousands of protesters rallied in Algiers for the 11th straight week after Friday prayers, demanding the departure of Algeria's ruling elite a month after the ousting of long-standing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Weeks of peaceful demonstrations forced Bouteflika out of office on April 2 after 20 years in power.

But protesters have continued mass demonstrations every Friday, demanding other members of the country's elite also give way.

Protesters chanted 'We will not shut up!', while others carried banners reading 'Bensalah, get out' in reference to Abdelkader Bensalah, who is currently acting as interim acting head of state for 90 days until an election on July 4.

In the crosshairs of the protests was also Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who was appointed by Bouteflika days before he stepped down.

'You must go' and 'Thieves you have destroyed the country', read other banners in Arabic.

Cries of 'Everyone must go' and 'Gang of thieves, you have ruined the country' rang out

"We cannot hold a dialogue with the symbols of the old system," Abdelouahab Fersaoui, president of the Rally for Youth Action civil society group, told the TSA news site. 

"We can't start a dialogue with Bensalah or Bedoui or anyone else who is responsible for the current state of the country."

Security forces set up control points on the east-west highway into Algiers and took up posts around the capital for the Friday demonstration. Thousands filled the plaza in front of the city's emblematic main post office that serves as a rallying point for protesters.

The army remains the most powerful institution in the North African country, having swayed politics from the shadows for decades.

The key powerbroker now is military chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, a long-time Bouteflika loyalist who ended up withdrawing his support for his boss. 

But the crowds filling the capital's central avenues on Friday chanted for Gaid Salah to "resign" and held placards reading "No to military rule".

Gaid Salah on Wednesday called for dialogue between protesters and the "institutions of the state" a day after digging in against demands that key leaders quit and be replaced by transitional bodies. 

Last week he vowed that several big corruption cases would come to light in a crackdown on graft.

A number of figures from the ruling elite including the finance minister, former prime minister and several rich businessmen have come under investigation in recent weeks.

Friday's protest is the last ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when days of fasting typically see a drop off in daytime activity. 

But Algerians pledged to keep up their protests regardless.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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