Algerians rally to demand post-Bouteflika political overhaul

Protesters rally for seventh straight week demanding the departure of allies of long-serving leader, who quit this week.

    People in Algiers carry an Algerian flag during a protest to push for the removal of the current political structure [Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]
    People in Algiers carry an Algerian flag during a protest to push for the removal of the current political structure [Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

    Algerians have once again taken to the streets to demand an overhaul of the political system after their pro-democracy movement forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign earlier this week after 20 years in power.

    Tens of thousands of people massed in the capital, Algiers, and marched towards the central post office, a symbol of the peaceful widespread protests that began on February 22 in response to 82-year-old Bouteflika's bid to seek a fifth term in now-cancelled elections, earlier scheduled for April 18.

    Security was higher than usual, with roadblocks preventing buses of protesters from entering the city. One group of demonstrators from the Kabylie region east of Algiers walked 20km after its bus was stopped at a roadblock.

    It was the seventh straight Friday of protests against a leadership the demonstrators perceive as corrupt and repressive but the first since the ailing Bouteflika resigned on Tuesday under pressure from protesters and the powerful army.

    The demonstrators now want the departure of key allies of Bouteflika, including the men who head Algeria's three branches of power: the prime minister, chief of the upper house of parliament and the president of the constitutional court.

    "The people want them all to leave," protesters chanted. 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.

    On Wednesday, the Constitutional Council confirmed that the post of president was vacant, paving the way for a three-month transition period. 

    Under Algeria's constitution, that confirmation allows the country to organise elections within that 90-day transition period. The process foresees both houses of parliament convening and Bensalah being named an interim leader.

    Bensalah, however, does not have the support of Algeria's opposition and thousands of protesters who led the anti-Bouteflika movement.

    Protesters carry a mock hangman with the faces of businessman Ali Haddad, former PM Ahmed Ouyahia and Said Bouteflika, the ex-president's brother [Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

    One of the leading voices of the protest movement, lawyer Mustapha Bouchachi, has called for the demonstrations to continue "until they have all gone".

    "Our victory is partial," he said in a video posted online.

    "Algerians will not accept that symbols of the regime ... lead the interim period and organise the next elections."

    Peaceful protests were also held in the northeastern province of Annaba and in Bejaia in the north, according to local media reports.

    Intelligence chief leaves post

    Meanwhile, Algerian media reported that Athmane Tartag, the country's director of the intelligence service, has left his post amid conflicting reports about whether he resigned or was dismissed.

    The local al-Khabar paper reported that the intelligence chief, also known as Bachir Tartag, handed in his resignation hours before Bouteflika stepped down.

    However, Algeria's private Ennahar satellite channel reported that Tartag was sacked on Friday.

    The 69-year-old was appointed as the head of the intelligence service in 2015.

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

    George Joffe from the School of Oriental and African Studies told Al Jazeera that "certain grudge scores are now being settled".

    "The result is now Tartag is out of office, and that begins to remove some of the infrastructure of the Bouteflika regime," he said, speaking from London.

    "Whether it implies a change in the institutions of the state of law … that I doubt very much."

    A vendor carries balloons depicting the Algerian flag during the rally in Algiers [Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies