Tens of thousands of protesters flocked the streets of cities across Algeria to demonstrate against the regime for the ninth consecutive Friday on April 19. Yet again, security forces resorted to forcefully dispersing and arbitrarily detaining the protesters.
In the centre of capital city of Algiers alone, about 3,000 had gathered outside the main post office, which has become the central avenue for demonstrations. Raising the slogans – “Down with the System!”, “You ate the country, you bunch of thieves” – the protesters expressed their determination to oust the entire ruling regime, and not just Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to step down from presidency earlier this month.
These protests began in February when the then president Bouteflika announced his intention to contest for another term in the elections which were originally scheduled on April 18.
This announcement was perceived as a move by the coterie of powerful businessmen, politicians and army generals to field the almost incapacitated 82-year-old president, while they continued to wield power behind the curtains.
As the demonstrations persisted for weeks, despite the crackdown by the security forces, Bouteflika, following a two-day general strike by unions on March 10 and 11, announced that he will not be contesting for another term. With more protesters joining in the demonstrations, he was forced to step down on April 2.
However, the election scheduled on April 18 was postponed with no new dates announced. .Abdelkader Bensalah, speaker of the upper house of the parliament and a close associate of Bouteflika, was appointed as the interim president for a period of 90 days. Infuriated protesters took to streets again, demanding the ousting of the entire regime and refusing to be satisfied with a mere change of face. Meanwhile, Bensalah announced that elections would be held on July 4.
But the protesters fear that three months is long enough to lose much of the gains made by the demonstrations. They are worried this will give time for the ruling elite of the National Liberation Front (FLN), who have been in power since independence, to find a way to hang on to power.
Further demonstrations continued, with thousands taking to streets, demanding the resignation of Bensalah, of Noureddine Bedoui who was appointed as the head of government last month, and of Tayeb Belaiz, the chief of the constitutional council who is set to take over as the interim president in case of Bensalah’s resignation. Water cannons and teargas were used by the security forces to disperse the demonstration in front of the main post office in the capital city last Friday.
After a number of smaller demonstrations and sit-ins since then, in the course of which more were detained, the demonstration of April 19 brought thousands together before the same post office again. One of the banners said,, “The ninth Friday is a vote against the gang” – a word that is increasingly being used to refer to the country’s ruling elite.