Algerians shout slogans and raise signs and national flags as they protest outside the city hall in the northern coastal city of Oran, about 410 kilometres west of the capital Algiers, on March 1, 2019, during a rally against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in power. The demonstrations came a week after tens of thousands of people rallied in the North African state against 82-year-old Bouteflika’s decision to stand in the April 18 election.AFP
Agence France-Presse

Hundreds of thousands of protesters in Algeria demonstrated for a ninth straight Friday against the country’s leadership amid calls for the departure of the powerful military’s chief of staff.

With police forces deployed across the city, protesters gathered in the morning at the main post office in Algiers – the Grande Poste – which has been a landmark during the weeks of protests that have already forced former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to stand down.

By the end of the afternoon, the boulevard joining the main post office to the Audin square and adjacent streets were crammed with protesters. In a peaceful atmosphere, the protesters – mostly youngsters – shouted slogans including “Down with the System!” or “You ate the country, you bunch of thieves”.

Some vented their anger, while others took selfies. Conversations about the ongoing political transition took place in a sea of people and Algerian flags.

Earlier this week, interim President Abdelkader Bensalah appointed a new head of Algeria’s Constitutional Council after the former chief, Tayeb Belaiz, quit under pressure from protesters.

Belaiz was one of three figures in the interim government whose removal has been demanded by pro-democracy protesters. They are seen as part of the discredited regime of Bouteflika, who resigned April 2 after six weeks of nationwide demonstrations calling for an end to his two-decade rule. The new council president is Kamel Feniche, a magistrate.

Belaiz’s departure has not helped calm protesters. An Associated Press reporter covering Friday’s demonstrations heard protesters criticizing Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, the military’s chief of staff.

Mustapha Bouchachi, a veteran lawyer and human rights activist, told the AP that “the peaceful mobilisation should continue until the departure of all the system’s faces. The movement should remain united to achieve the dream of a democratic Algeria with equal rights for all.”

Earlier this week, Gaid Salah called on Algerians to show patience during the political transition ahead.

A presidential election has been set for July 4 to choose the successor to Bouteflika.

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