Algeria Constitutional Council head quits

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The chairman of Algeria’s Constitutional Council Tayib Belaiz quit his post, state news agency APS said, following calls for his resignation by pro-democracy protesters who say he is part of a ruling elite they want abolished.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 after weeks of mass protests for his 20-year rule to end. His departure failed to placate many Algerians who want to topple the old guard and its associates.

Belaiz submitted his resignation to Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, APS reported, citing a statement from the council.

Bensalah is another senior political figure protesters want removed. He was appointed interim president after Algeria’s army chief declared Bouteflika unfit for office and said the military would back a transition period ahead of a presidential election on July 4.

Hundreds of students in Algiers broke through riot police cordons and streamed to the city centre calling for the resignation of Bensalah, witnesses said.

Shouting “No to Bensalah”, students waved Algerian flags riot police stood by. The protests, which began on February 22 were largely peaceful. Thousands of students marched in other cities including  Bouira, Boumerdes and Tizi Ouzou, according to witnesses.

“Pressure will continue until all demands are met,” said 25-year-old student Mourad Dimi. Protesters want removal of an elite governing Algeria since independence from France in 1962 and the prosecution of people they see as corrupt.

Last week, army chief, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, said he expected to see members of the ruling elite close to Bouteflika, who he called a “gang”, prosecuted for corruption and said he would support a transition toward elections.

The army initially monitored unrest from the sidelines. Then Salah intervened, declaring Bouteflika – rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 unfit to rule.