Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Algeria protests: Thousands gather at main post office to keep up pressure on regime

About 3,000 people had massed at the Grande Poste, which has been a landmark during the weeks of protests

Protesters have gathered at the main post office in Algiers, on the ninth straight Friday of demonstrations against the country's leadership, with participants refusing to accept only the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

About 3,000 people had gathered at the Grande Poste, which has been a landmark during the weeks of protests, by 10am local time.

They were shouting slogans including "Down with the System!" or "You ate the country, you bunch of thieves."

Police forces have been deployed throughout the city.

Earlier this week, interim President Abdelkader Bensalah appointed a new head of the Constitutional Council after the former chief quit under pressure from protesters.

A presidential election has been set for July 4 to choose the successor to Mr Bouteflika, who stepped down under pressure from the military's chief of staff.

On Wednesday, Hundreds of Algerians rallied outside the offices of the country's biggest union, calling for its chief to quit over his ties to ousted president Mr Bouteflika.

"Free the union," read a protesters' placard outside the powerful General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) in the capital Algiers, where Abdelmadjid Sidi Said has been secretary-general since 1997.

After more than a month of mass protests, Sidi Said ultimately welcomed the army chief's call for Mr Bouteflika to be declared unfit to rule.

Despite the president's resignation, rallies have continued as protesters push for Bouteflika's inner circle to step down and a broad overhaul of the political system.

Along with Sidi Said, demonstrators have targeted prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, who has since been sacked, and tycoon Ali Haddad who has been detained.

Earlier on Tuesday, the chairman of the Constitutional Council, Tayib Belaiz, quit his post. That followed calls for his resignation by protesters who say he is part of a ruling elite they want to see abolished.

The army remains the most powerful institution in Algeria. It has swayed politics from the shadows for decades and is expected to help guide the transition process.

Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah hinted this week that the military may soften its position, saying: "All options remain open... in order to find a solution to the crisis as soon as possible."

He also vowed that the Algerian army would not turn its weapons on its people, but would make sure that "no drop of Algerian blood is spilled".

Police forces, accused in past weeks of trying to quell the protest movement amid teargas-soaked clashes with demonstrators, were keeping a low profile on Friday.

Updated: April 19, 2019 03:34 PM

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