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Algerians demand more concessions in 9th week of mass protests

19 April 2019, MVT 17:02
Algerian students shout slogans as they demonstrate with national flags outside La Grande Poste (main post office) in the centre of the capital Algiers on March 10, 2019 against ailing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term. PHOTO: RYAD KRAMDI / AFP
19 April 2019, MVT 17:02

Protesters in central Algiers on Friday staged their ninth weekly mass rally, galvanised by the departure of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika but vowing to keep up their demands for sweeping reforms.

Algerians first hit the streets in huge numbers on February 22 after the octogenarian leader's announcement that he would stand for a fifth term in presidential elections that had been scheduled for Thursday.

But his departure early this month spurred demonstrators to seek further changes, notably the resignation of three senior Bouteflika allies.

Activists chalked up a second victory Tuesday as one of the three, constitutional council chief Tayeb Belaiz, followed Bouteflika to the exit.

But student Lyes Adimi, 24, said more change was needed.

"Just because Belaiz has resigned that doesn't mean it's over," she said. "What has the constitutional council ever done apart from validating the fraud of the system it belongs to?"

Protesters are demanding the resignation of the two remaining members of a group dubbed the "3B" -- interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui -- saying regime stalwarts should be entirely excluded from any political transition.

Belaiz's replacement, little-known senior judge and former prosecutor Kamel Feniche, is also seen as a regime loyalist.

On Friday, hundreds rallied outside the capital's iconic main Post Office building, chanting: "The people want them all to leave!" and "Barakat (Enough of) this system!"

Despite Bensalah calling a presidential election on July 4, Algerian demonstrations are demanding a broader overhaul of the political system.

Algerians take part in a demonstration against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in front of La Grande Poste (main post office) in the centre of the capital Algiers on March 22, 2019. - Bouteflika said on February 22 he would run for a fifth term in April 18 elections, despite concerns about his ability to rule. The 82-year-old uses a wheelchair and has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013. Following initial protests, he made the surprise announcement on March 11 that he was pulling out of the race -- and also postponed the polls. PHOTO: AFP

The army "is convinced that the crisis can be managed through appeasement", said Geneva-based political scientist Hasni Abidi.

He said its strategy was one of "gradually minimising the scope of concessions".

But army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah hinted this week that the military may soften its position, saying: "All options remain open... in order to find a solution to the crisis as soon as possible."

He also vowed that the Algerian army would not turn its weapons on its people, but would make sure that "no drop of Algerian blood is spilled".

Police forces, accused in past weeks of trying to quell the protest movement amid teargas-soaked clashes with demonstrators, were keeping a low profile Friday.o

Algiers, Algeria | AFP

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