Mass Algerian protest marks uprising anniversary


More than 100 000 Algerians, double the number attending weekly protests, marched on Friday to demand a purge of the ruling hierarchy and an end to military involvement in politics.

The surge in numbers follows opposition calls on social media for a big demonstration to mark the anniversary of the 1954 uprising against French rule, the start of a struggle for independence whose cadres still dominate Algerian politics.

Algeria, the largest country in Africa, is a major exporter of oil and gas.

Friday’s protest comes as the leaderless opposition movement prepares for a test of strength with authorities after rejecting a presidential election called for December and seen by the army as the best way to end the impasse.

Mass protests started in February after veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he would stand for president again in a July election and continued weekly even after he stood down in April.

Since spring, the number of protesters attending weekly demonstrations has fallen, though thousands continued to march every Friday through summer and autumn, saying all members of the old guard should quit.

Some of Bouteflika’s closest allies and other once-powerful people in the hierarchy were detained or jailed on corruption charges. Protesters want remaining figures associated with the former president to quit as well.

It left the army as the most powerful player in Algerian politics under chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, who publicly pushed the interim president to call December’s election.

On Friday, protesters chanted: “Gaed Salah go home!” and “There will be no election this year!”

They also demanded removal of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Nouredine Bedoui. Twenty candidates applied to stand in the December election.