ALGIERS (Reuters) – Tens of thousands Algerians gathered on Friday in the capital to demand the removal of the ruling elite, keeping up pressure for more rapid change after the end of the 20-year rule of Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The protest, which coincided with Algeria’s Independence Day, was the 20th consecutive Friday crowds had gathered to demand a break with the elite which has dominated the oil and gas producer for decades.
Several banners held up by protesters referred to an article of the consitution which says the people are the sovereign, while some others read: “We want a free and democratic state” and “We don’t want a military state but a civilian state”.
Algeria’s army, the country’s most powerful institution, has managed the transition from Bouteflika but wants to overcome the deadlock rapidly through a presidential election, observers say.
A vote had been initially planned for this week but was postponed by the authorities.
The army fears instability in neighbouring Libya and the Sahel region will encourage armed groups to operate in Algeria to exploit the transition.
Algeria is an important gas supplier for Europe and a key U.S. partner in the fight against militants in the region.
“The system is corrupt, fully corrupt. So we demand the removal of all those who were with Bouteflika’s system,” said 23-year old Slimani Hached who works at a state firm in Algiers.
Protesters again called for the removal of Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Nouredine Bedoui, who are both seen as close allies of Bouteflika.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Toby Chopra)