Massive march for change in Algeria

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Thousands of protesters demanding the removal of Algeria’s ruling elite gathered in Algiers for a 12th successive Friday, defying attempts by the army to ease tensions ahead of presidential elections.

The demonstrators want radical change with the departure of senior figures, including politicians and businessmen, who governed the North African country since independence from France in 1962.

“They all go,” read a banner held up by protesters draped in national flags gathered in central Algiers, which has seen numerous large anti-government marches since February 22.

“We will not give up. The battle will continue,” said a 37-year-old school teacher, marching with his wife and two children.

The demonstration was peaceful but smaller than those that have shaken Algiers over the past weeks. This is the first protest since the start of Ramadan.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in other cities, including Oran, Tizi Ouzou and Constantine, chanting anti-government slogans, witnesses said.

After 20 years in power, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit on April 2 after pressure from protesters and the army, but demonstrations continued seeking removal of all old guard officials and the introduction of political reforms.

Protesters also demand the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, the head of the upper house of parliament who replaced Bouteflika for 90 days to oversee a July 4 presidential election.

The army, the north African country’s most powerful institution, sought appeasement by meeting some protesters’ demands including anti-graft probes against people suspected of misuse of power and public funds.

Last week, Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs were placed in custody by a military judge over “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”.

At least five businessmen, including the country’s richest man, Issad Rebrab, active in the food industry and sugar refining, were detained for alleged involvement in corruption scandals.