Tens of thousands protest against Algeria's ruling elite

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators hold flags and banners during anti government protests in Algiers, Algeria April 23, 2019. The banner reads "Government go away - students take over". REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File photo

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of protesters demanding the departure of Algeria's ruling elite rallied peacefully in Algiers for a tenth consecutive Friday.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down after 20 years in power this month, bowing to pressure from the army and weeks of demonstrations mainly by young people seeking change.

"The system must go" and "We are fed up with you," read banners held up by protesters in central Algiers, scene of mass protests since Feb. 22.

There was no official count but Reuters reporters estimated the number of participants rising after Friday prayers to tens of thousands, like last week.

"The people want to uproot you," a crowd chanted, addressing the elite which has ruled the oil- and gas-producing nation since independence from France in 1962.

The protests, which have been largely peaceful, have continued as many demand the removal of the elite and prosecution of those they see as corrupt.

Bouteflika has been replaced by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election on July 4. He has been facing demands from the street to quit.

Algeria’s wealthiest businessman and four other tycoons close to Bouteflika were arrested this week as part of an anti-graft investigation, state media said.

The arrests came after army chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah said he expected members of the ruling elite to be prosecuted for corruption.

Salah intervened when Bouteflika sought to extend his fourth term, declaring him unfit for office, in a bid to avoid prolonged turmoil.


(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed and Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Janet Lawrence)