Million protesters march against Algeria’s Bouteflika
Million protesters took to the streets of Algiers on Friday to demand the resignation of long time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The turnout came days after the military called for the aging leader’s removal to end a growing political crisis.
The protests have been largely peaceful but have put pressure on the army to act. Some witnesses estimated the number of people on the streets on Friday at around one million, but authorities said the number was lower, Reuters reported.
While many people resent the power held by Bouteflika and his shrinking inner circle, they also reject the idea of army intervention in civilian political life.
The army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, on Tuesday asked the Constitutional Council to rule whether the ailing 82-year-old president was fit for office.
Salah’s call for Bouteflika to step down was a clear reminder to Algerians that the army intends to retain its vast influence in national affairs.
Bouteflika established himself in the early 2000s by ending a civil war that had claimed 200,000 lives. But he has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, and now faces the biggest crisis of his 20 years in power.
Algeria has long been dominated by veterans of the 1954-1962 independence war against France, but many now see these as too old and out of touch.
The protesters want to replace the establishment with a new generation capable of modernizing the oil-dependent state and giving hope to a young population impatient for a better life.
In the latest blow, one of Bouteflika’s few remaining influential supporters, leading businessman Ali Haddad, resigned as head of the influential FCE business forum.
Under the constitution, the chairman of parliament’s upper house, Abdelkader Bensalah, would serve as caretaker president for at least 45 days if Bouteflika stepped down. There is, however, no obvious long-term successor. 101/211/205