Sunday 20 October 2019

Protesters call for fall of Algeria's ruling elite

Resigned: Long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Photo: AP
Resigned: Long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Photo: AP

Aomar Ouali algiers

Algerians whose pro-democracy movement has forced out long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika chanted, sang and celebrated their victory - and demanded other top figures leave as well.

Tens of thousands of people massed in the capital's streets and marched towards the central post office, a symbol of a movement that has upended the energy-rich North African country in just seven weeks.

Security was high, with roadblocks preventing buses of protesters from entering the capital. One group said they walked around 20km after their bus was stopped.

It was the seventh straight Friday of protests against a leadership seen as corrupt and repressive, but the first since Mr Bouteflika resigned under pressure from protesters and the powerful army.

"It's a little victory, but others should leave too," said Salim Mehdi, a 40-year-old protester .

Mr Mehdi still lives with his parents and has not married because he has never found a safe job. One reason he is protesting is the limited economic opportunity for those outside the political elite.

However, he said he is mainly protesting to show his frustration at a "corrupt, rotten system" where the same faces have been in charge for too long. The protesters want the departure of the men who head Algeria's three branches of power: the prime minister, the upper house of parliament's chief and the president of the constitutional court.

"The people want them all to leave!" the protesters chanted yesterday. Some brandished signs calling for the exit of "the three Bs" - prime minister Noureddine Bedoui, Constitutional Council president Tayeb Belaiz and upper house of parliament president Abdelkader Bensalah.

With the president gone, Mr Bensalah - a Bouteflika ally - is expected to take over as interim leader while Algeria organises elections.

However, the movement has not coalesced around a single alternative candidate or plan to govern Algeria.

Some of the protesters suggested appointing a government of technocrats - not including any of the current political leadership - while new elections are organised.

The military chief of staff, Ahmed Gaid Salah, played a key role in pushing Mr Bouteflika towards the door and is considered the guarantor of Algeria's security, but many protesters disagreed with his strategy and are mixed about what role he should play in the political transition.

The head of Algeria's intelligence service, Athmane Tartag, quietly submitted his resignation after Mr Bouteflika's departure, a security official said.

Algerian news reports said the intelligence service, DSS, will now report to the Defence Ministry instead of the president's office.

Irish Independent

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