Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

Algerians keep up protests despite Bouteflika's departure

Demonstrators call for complete change as spy chief is reported to have been sacked

Protesters waving banners and calling for radical change marched through Algiers for the first time since veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down this week as Algeria's spy chief was reported to have been fired in a further sign of turmoil in the ruling establishment.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the capital for a seventh successive Friday to push for the removal of the entire political structure, built around the ruling party, army officers, businessmen, unions and veterans of a 1954-62 independence war against France.

"We want to uproot the symbols of the system," said teacher Ahmed Badili.

"We want radical change. No need for temporary solutions," said state bank employee Noureddine Dimi, 52.

The intelligence chief, retired army general Athmane Tartag, was a close ally of Mr Bouteflika, who quit on Tuesday under pressure from the army.

The military said it was acting in the national interest following weeks of anti-government demonstrations.

Mr Tartag's departure was reported by the private Ennahar TV, who added that his powerful intelligence position, currently under the authority of the presidency, would return to the supervision of the defence ministry.

No replacement has been announced.

The intelligence service was an important component of the military's powerful influence in national affairs and played a backroom role in politics as well as in the 1990s civil war.

But in 2016 Mr Bouteflika removed it from the supervision of the defence ministry and placed it under the authority of the presidency to try to ease it out of the political sphere.

Algeria is now in the hands of a caretaker government headed by establishment political figures – which is unlikely to mollify anger on the streets. The government will stay in office until elections in three months time.

No clear successor to Mr Bouteflika has emerged.

In the weeks before his own resignation, the former president's inner circle was depleted by the resignation of several of his close allies from influential positions in politics and business.

Updated: April 5, 2019 03:48 PM

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